This week, Fergus Walsh, a medical correspondent for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) wrote a health piece comparing Italian health habits to British health habits entitled, "Why do the Italians live longer than us?" Walsh noted that Italians smoke more than the British, earn less, have an economy in worse shape than theirs, spend less on healthcare, and yet - they live longer. Italians also have more years of good health before disease and disability set in.
A comparison of health outcomes in 19 countries over 20 years was recently published in the Lancet. On life expectancy Britain came 14th - slipping down two places since 1990. Italy, on the other hand, rose from 5th to 2nd - ahead of France, Germany, and Sweden. Until the 1970s, Britons actually lived longer than Italians.
Italians are more likely to smoke than Britons - 23% of adults there compared to 20% here. Until around 2006 Italy had fewer smokers. Britain's levels have simply fallen faster than theirs, meaning adults here are still paying the price of decades of greater cigarette consumption.
The Mediterranean diet is probably a factor in Italian longevity. Since the 1960s the Italian diet has improved, with much more fresh fish and a wider variety of foods. Fresh vegetables and fruit are commonly used and Italians use a lot of olive oil in cooking, and less animal fats than is found in British dishes.
The Mediterranean diet has been linked with a reduced risk of heart disease in several studies. Last month, a trial in the New England Journal of Medicine involving more than 7,000 people in Spain found that those given either a litre of extra virgin olive oil, or 200g of walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds every week for five years had a significantly reduced risk of stroke and heart disease compared to a third control group who were simply advised to have a low-fat diet.
Italians normally drink wine with meals and avoided the sort of binge drinking that is commonplace in places like Britain and the United States. Unfortunately, however, young Italians are starting to copy these dangerous habits.
Find Chiromother on facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/chiromother, twitter http://twitter.com/ChiroMother OR on Pinterest at: http://pinterest.com/chiromother/my-articles-and-videos-at-examiner-com-yahoo-voice/.