Diets and the benefits they reportedly offer have always made the headlines. From Atkins, to South Beach to Mediterranean to 5:2 and numerous others. There is yet a new one making waves- The Pioppi Diet.
The Pioppi diet jointly created by, Dr Aseem Malhotra, a cardiologist and leading obesity expert, and acclaimed film-maker Donal O’neill is outlined in a recently released book authored by the two. This article summarises the origin and principles of this new diet and attempts to analyse it from the dietitian’s perspective.
Origin of the Pioppi diet
The diet gets its unique name from a coastal village named Pioppi, nestled beside the Tyrrhenian Sea in southern Italy, with a population of about one hundred and ninety-seven. Known as the healthiest place in the world, indigenous folk in Pioppi are reported to outlive their British counterparts by an average of 8 years.
They reportedly do not suffer from chronic diseases although they enjoy delicious food and drink alcohol moderately. Type 2 diabetes in particular, is reported to be non-existent in the population. As is common for most other diets, the 21-day Pioppi diet plan hinges on a number of principles.
Features of the Pioppi Diet
- Pioppi diet advocates avoidance of all added sugars for the first 2 weeks and cuts out all breads, pasta, rice and other processed carbohydrates. Honey, syrups and fruit juices are also off the Pioppi list. It however allows generous portions of vegetables and low-sugar fruits.
- Getting at least two-to-four tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil per day, and a small handful of nuts is a key component of the Pioppi diet. Use of industrial seed oils such as soybean and sunflower and canola oils is discouraged.
- It advocates fasting for 24-hours once a week – this is done from ‘dinner to dinner’ and involves skipping breakfast and lunch. Fluids are freely allowed during the fast to prevent adherents from getting dehydrated.
- The Pioppi diet also recommends intake of oily fish like salmon and sardines (three portions a week as a minimum), eggs (ten a week), full-fat dairy products, coconut oil and dark chocolate (30g a day). Considering the aforementioned, the Pioppi diet appears to be generally liberal with all fats including saturated fats. However the recommendation for red meat intake is a limit of 500g per week (similar to the World Cancer Foundation recommendations), with an emphasis on unprocessed red meat.
- The diet advocates including breathing exercises in daily routines, sleeping for a minimum of seven hours a day and socializing more with friends. It further recommends aiming for 30 minutes of brisk walking five times a week, avoiding sitting still for longer than 45 minutes at a time, and spending as much time as possible outdoors around nature.
From the dietitian’s lens
Overall, the diet appears to reinforce some aspects of well-established principles of healthy eating such as inclusion of generous portions of vegetables and fruit in the diet.
The inclusion of recommended hours for sleeping, physical activity targets and general stress management in the diet plan is also commendable as it tackles other lifestyle issues often overlooked by fad diet creators.
The avoidance of bread, rice and other starchy carbohydrates might make the Pioppi diet difficult to adhere to in the long term in our context. Furthermore, the fact that it is a 21-day plan also raises questions about its sustainability.
Then also, like most other diets, its long-term impact will need to be properly investigated, especially considering the small population size of the town from where evidence for the diet is generated. The Pioppi diet has received both praiseworthy commendations and criticisms. You can get the book on amazon.com and have a full read.
It is important to consider all the available facts about any diet plan one intends to embark upon. As dietitians, we believe in nutrition recommendations based on scientific evidence and emphasize a healthy lifestyle that includes physical activity and consuming a balanced variety of nutrient-rich foods and beverages in moderation.
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