Mediterranean diet and prevention: lifestyle for longevity

Eating Mediterranean: the only model of food life which can boast thousands of scientific studies in its favor and which, for 10 years, has enjoyed the recognition of intangible heritage of humanity by Unesco. Luca Piretta, specialist in gastroenterology and human nutrition science, a well-known face of Rai, has no doubts: "If we want to live well and for a long time, we must eat mediterranean.

Let's stop chasing captivating news (often devoid of scientific foundations) and recover ours tradition better than, even in light of the most innovative research on the microbiome and the chrononutrition, is confirmed as the most congenial for the well-being of our organism ».

All projects Mediterranean diet, and to its secrets, Piretta dedicated her latest book, Eating in the country to feel better and live longer (Rizzoli, 208 pages, € 16), which she talks about in this interview.

In "Eating in the country" he reiterates that the Mediterranean is a model, not a diet ...

It is not a weight loss regimen, but one lifestyle, not only nutritional, to which physical activity, conviviality, frugality, rest, care in the choice and cooking of food, a solid respect for the rituality of the choices at the table are essential to function at their best. In fact, without the taste and pleasure deriving from these last things (often inspired by local or family cultural traditions), guaranteeing everyone a psychological as well as physical well-being would be difficult. It is in this that it can be said that the substantial difference between slimming diets and the Mediterranean model: the latter aims to maintain an optimal state of health over time.

So the Mediterranean diet is not for weight loss?

The need to lose weight at any cost, by doing any diet or applying any method, is valid only for severe obesity (indicatively, body weight exceeds the ideal one by 60%). In all other situations, that is, in the vast majority of people, the advantage of a weight loss is only one ensuring the intake of healthy food in the right proportions, with the necessary modalities and in a lasting way over time; in other words, with thenutrition education. Including numerous plant products and a few of animal origin in the menu improves everyone's health.

Pasta, extra virgin olive oil and tomatoes are considered the symbolic foods of the town's menu

It is true. But in reality the Mediterranean diet does not enhance individual foods, but rather evaluates them as a whole, underlining the importance of their combination. If we consumed only one of these products or included them in a context of western diet (the classic North American diet rich in red meat, saturated fats and condiments), many "advantages" would be lost.

What are the foods to choose?

«The Mediterranean model envisages a diet based basically on the consumption of cereals, fruit and vegetables (fresh, seasonal and possibly local, at most regional), legumes, fish, extra virgin olive oil and red wine. It does not exclude the consumption of meat, cheeses and sweets, as long as they are consumed in smaller quantities than the former. In conclusion: it is important not only what we eat, but also in what doses and how often. The Mediterranean diet is mainly vegetarian, but it does not demonize meat, so as to obtain the benefits without the disadvantages of excessive consumption. The red ones (bovine and pork) can be consumed once a week, maximum two, in order to guarantee the supply of noble proteins, zinc, iron, vitamin B12 without risk.

Are there new studies on good habits in our home?

"Consuming the typical products of the Mediterranean diet helps to prevent significantly the appearance of the main diseases: cardiovascular, tumor, neurodegenerative, metabolic and gastrointestinal pathologies. Until now it was thought that these benefits were due to the good fats of olive oil and blue fish, antioxidants, mineral salts, vitamins and fiber in fruit and vegetables, the content of cholesterol and saturated fats. All true. But today we know that many of the benefits of our diet depend on its ability to select a healthy intestinal flora. The Mediterranean model is mainly based on foods of plant origin, rich in fiber, and this allows the development of mainly fermentative bacteria (to the detriment of putrefactive ones). By fermenting food, these bacteria allow the formation of short-chain fatty acids, such as propionate and butyrate, which guarantee the health of the intestine (where 70-80% of our immune defenses are concentrated) and of the whole organism. Other research has shown that i good, monopolunsaturated fats, present in olive oil, nuts and fish, in addition to reducing inflammation (which triggers various diseases), like fibers, influence the development of good bacteria.

Chronobiology also promotes the country model

The simultaneous intake of proteins and carbohydrates (nutrients present in the pasta) allows to synchronize the peripheral clocks located in the liver cells, optimally regulating the post-prandial glucose metabolism. Thanks to chronobiological studies we know that the same food can be used more or less efficiently by our body depending on the time of day in which he is hired. Carbohydrates, our main source of energy, should be consumed especially in the first part of the day. Hence, the Mediterranean diet is the one that takes into account the "natural" rhythms of life, of the alternation between dark-light, sleep-wakefulness, rest-activity. Breakfast has always been considered essential, because it must recharge us after a long night fast. Today we know that this meal is also the first synchronizer of internal biological clocks (it provides the right nutrients at the right time) ».


There is a mathematical model that can calculate whether we are following a Mediterranean diet in an ideal way for our health. The calculation is not simple and, usually, it is performed by professionals. It measures the ratio between the calories ingested through the main foods of the diet (fruit, vegetables, cereals, olive oil, legumes, fish, red wine) and those of the less present foods (red meats, sweets and cheeses). The resulting number is called Iam, Mediterranean Adequacy Index: the higher the better, but a value of 4-5 is optimal. Some studies have calculated that it would be enough to raise this index by 2 points (even from 0 to 2) to reduce total mortality by 9%, cardiovascular mortality by 9%, cancer by 6% and the incidence of Parkinson's disease by 13%. and Alzheimer's.

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