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What Can This Small Italian Village Teach Us About Health?

Could this be the secret to health and longevity?

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by Bexx Henderson in Health
What can this Italian village teach us about health?

Acciaroli is a small Italian fishing village, in the Campania region of Southern Italy. It has a population of just 2,000 people – yet it has caught the interest of a group of researchers, who believe it could teach us something about health.

This is due to the fact that, despite its small population, 300 centenarians live in the village. In other words, 15% of the population is over 100 years old.

To put that into perspective, the average life expectancy in the UK currently is 81 years old, with less than 1% making it to 100. It’s also out of character for the rest of Italy, where the average life expectancy is 83.

As well as living to a ripe old age, the people of Acciaroli have low rates of Alzheimer’s and heart disease. Even the centenarians are in good physical and mental shape.

The research, a joint effort between the University of California and the University of Rome La Sapienza, will look at a range of factors – including genetics and lifestyle factors. If all goes well, the researchers will apply the results to the global population. But what do we know so far?

The Picture of Health?

What’s most surprising about the research so far is the people of Acciaroli aren’t actively trying to stay healthy. At least, not in the way you’d expect.

They’re definitely not making green juice, downing shots of activated charcoal or fighting over the equipment in their local CrossFit box. 😂

Dr Alan Maisel, a cardiologist from the University of California, said of his preliminary investigations:

“What shocked me is that I don’t see people jogging. I do not see people in active exercise classes. I don’t see them swimming laps in the ocean.”

In fact, as well as the clear lack of active exercise, he also noted how:

  • Plenty of them still smoke,
  • A high percentage were overweight,
  • They eat lots of fried food,
  • They drink coffee and wine.

The research will be interesting for sure – but what can we make of the findings so far?

A Balanced Diet is Key

People have been raving about the benefits of the Mediterranean diet for years. Acciaroli is a rural village – nestled between the mountains and the sea – so the people who live here still eat traditionally: plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, chicken and fish, herbs and spices, wholegrains, olive oil, and nuts.

They eat a healthy diet, but it isn’t restrictive.

They also indulge (and regularly) in plenty of food that’s been demonised by the wellness industry – bread, pasta, dairy – and, of course, red wine.

The difference is they enjoy these foods in moderation, as part of a balanced diet. They don’t restrict and binge, but simply listen to their body and eat for both nourishment and enjoyment, without overthinking too much.

The researchers have already noted a couple of key points about their diet, which they believe may contribute to the impressive longevity:

… Lifestyle Matters Too

Although the researchers didn’t find much evidence people of people actively pursuing fitness, on the whole the community is still active.

They live in a rural location, with the sea on one side, and the mountains on the other. People tend to walk everywhere – which involves hiking up steep hills and through the mountains.

I also found this quote from Dr Maisel pretty interesting:

“In the evenings, in the late afternoon, they’re all sitting around the cantinas, the restaurants. They’re having some wine, some coffee. They’re relaxed.”

In Acciaroli, relaxing is a way of life. They eat out, they drink wine and they make time to slow down and socialise friends and family. I’m jumping to conclusions a little bit, but from where I’m standing – it sounds like they don’t let stress get in the way too much.

I feel like, in the UK at least, high levels of stress are accepted as par for the course – but there are plenty of communities out there who prove this doesn’t have to be the case.

 

So, What Does This Teach Us About Health?

I’m looking forward to reading the report when it comes out, but I think there’s already a lot we can take away from this little case study.

Your diet is important, but a little bit of bread or wine is unlikely to do you any harm.

Enjoy life!

Don’t underestimate the importance of downtime and having fun.

Exercise matters – but this doesn’t have to mean going to the gym five times per week (unless you want it to, of course).

Spend some time outdoors, and don’t ignore stress.

THERE’S MORE TO HEALTH THAN DIET AND EXERCISE!

SELF-CARE ISN'T SELFISH.

Are you a busy mum, trying your best to juggle the demands of everyday life? My five step process will help you find time for you.

GET THE WORKBOOK