Yep, a new diet book is on the circuit and it's creating a stir............The Pioppi Diet
1. What is is?
The Pioppi diet was created by Dr Aseem Malhotra, a consultant cardiologist who has clearly witnessed the brunt of diet related disease in his profession. Basically it's the traditional Mediterranean diet with a modern twist. The village of Pioppi in Southern Italy boasts a longer than average life which has been linked to their diet and lifestyle. They eat lots of local produce; fish, whole grains, fresh fruit and veg, seeds, nuts and healthy fats (particularly olive oil). Junk food is not on the menu, they don't eat much meat but do enjoy the odd tipple; this Mediterranean style of eating is certainly seen as the epitome of health. They enjoy a simple life where regular exercise is habitual, and Malhotra emphasises the value of relaxation, sleep, friends and community support. Sounds good eh?
2. What does it promise?
The Pioppi diet is a 21 day lifestyle plan. Just 21 days to transform your health and happiness. I'm disappointed to see this because this book now sits on the shelf with all the other fad diets. We can't improve our health in the long term in 21 days! Making this claim simply sets us up for failure and disappointment. Grrrrr.
3. What do you have to do?
The modern twist on the good ol' Mediterranean diet comes from Malhotra's work studying the Pioppi population alongside his organisation Action on Sugar. He says stay clear of all added sugars, because this is what's killing us. OK sugar isn't great and many of us have to much BUT the Pioppi diet says no fruit juice, no honey, NO rice, pasta or bread. These foods are on the Pioppi naughty list. Since when do Italians not any eat bread and pasta? None at all? What's so bad about it?! Why can't I have rice? He says if you're having them at all they should be viewed as an occasional treat eaten in small portions. Hmmmm
Now I get there may be benefits from watching portion sizes but I feel excluding foods like this is unnecessary for most people. Everyone is getting obsessed with 'good' or 'bad' foods. Demonising foods like this is so unhelpful. Being told we can't have something means we are more likely to develop guilt and negative emotions around eating. Yes a low carb, high fat diet can be helpful for some people with type 2 diabetes but that doesn't mean everyone should do it!
The other element of this 21-day plan is to fast for 1 day each week. Intermittent fasting isn’t necessarily a terrible approach (the 5:2 can work for some), but the long term effects are not clear. I think many of us find fasting hard because our life is pressured and hectic. A diet has to be practical and getting hangry is a real issue for many plus our environment doesn't make it easy to avoid food.
4. Will it work for you?
Who knows?! Acknowledging the wider determinants of health beyond diet is refreshing but having to follow and stick to a rigid plan created from a very flexible style of eating just doesn't make sense. I'm all for smiling and laughing more but eating 2-4 tablespoons of olive oil, a handful of seeds, 7 portions of fruit n veg a day with and 3 lots of oily fish and 10 eggs a week will be pretty hard going. I'm now stressing about the poor chickens and no sugar no carbs!
If we were Italian and lived in a small, quiet fishing village then perhaps it might be easier. Context is everything. The best diet is always going to be the one you can stick to, that you enjoy and that meets your individual health needs.
If you are giving the Pioppi Diet a go, please share how you are getting on :-)