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We Italians eat LOADS of grain, but are not fat!?

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  • We Italians eat LOADS of grain, but are not fat!?

    Hi there, I have started eating primal a few weeks ago and, even if I was a bit skeptical at the beginning, I have to say I love it. Even if I was doing well with my previous diet (still healthy but higher on whole grains and dairy), with the primal one I seem to get even better results and I feel great as well. Just by dropping carbs and increasing fat!

    But there is something that I cannot ignore and that I get as a legitimate objection from my friends when I try to promote the primal diet: people in Italy eat loads of carbs, still they are on average quite thin. Ok, you will not see that many ripped people, but it is also not that easy to find fat ones. In Italy we luckily do not eat that much evil fats, fast foods, sugars and other crap but we still have a large plate of pasta more or less daily and have pizza at the very least once a week (but usually much more than that). On top of that, we eat large quantities of dairy and all sorts of grain-based foods, like rice, potatoes and even something that is in theory really evil, like this: Polenta - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    How do you explain that??

  • #2
    I was wondering about this too. The Mediterranean Diet and the French Paradox both rely HEAVILY on grains. The French especially love their dairy. I'm still following PB, but the thought has crossed my mind: is eating an all natural, homemade French baguette AS bad (does it deserve the same intensity of rejection) as cooking with partially hydrogenated soybean oil? I understand that neither are "primal" and that the focus of PB isn't just on heart health and weight....but it would appear that there are some bread and cattle cultures that are doing just fine living more-than-primally.

    Thoughts?

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    • #3
      Im not so sure on your theory of No fat Italians tbh.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Wayneeuk View Post
        Im not so sure on your theory of No fat Italians tbh.
        No I did not say there are no fat ones, of course there are. Still, on average, I would say Italians are much thinner than other populations I had the chance to live with

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        • #5
          Don't they walk an awfule lot? I know reading about people in France walking a lot and that is why the majority is skinny. Would this be the same arguement for Italy?

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          • #6
            Originally posted by croí View Post
            Don't they walk an awfule lot? I know reading about people in France walking a lot and that is why the majority is skinny. Would this be the same arguement for Italy?
            mmm, Italians do walk more than some other pupulations but I would say that it is not such a big difference

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            • #7
              I'm not sure they eat loads of grains. For example, a serving of pasta in Italy is considerably smaller than the plates of pasta you see served in the States. And their diet contains substantial amounts of veggies, protein and fat.
              Starting Weight: 197.5
              Current Weight: 123
              Far healthier!

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              • #8
                I think it takes extraordinary circumstances to have high rates of obesity. It's not just grains, there is just too many things wrong with nutrition here to blame obesity on grains.
                Ye shall know them by their fruits.

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                • #9
                  Perhaps the durum wheat used for pasta is less aggressive?

                  Also lots of sunshine.
                  activate the rhythm, the rhythm that has always been within

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                  • #10
                    I would guess they just don't overeat. I'm from Eastern Europe where the countries as a whole have some average level of obesity (according to the 'official' statistics of the world countries). From my friends, relatives, colleagues, my own conclusions are:

                    * the fat ones snack all day, every day, mostly junk
                    * the skinny fat ones eat small portions, have great self-control (more often than not pretending not to)
                    * the lean and mean don't snack, eat at most 2-3 meals a day with protein, and workout at least every other day (in my case and a couple of friends: pushups, basketball, table tennis)

                    I'm not sure about walking though. I personally walk massive distances compared to the general population but somehow don't 'feel' that this is the crucial thing that allows me to maintain my weight with relative ease.
                    Me@twitter

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                    • #11
                      A couple things:

                      1.) Italians in Italy don't eat like we eat here. They don't have spaghetti and meatballs. Pasta is a side dish in a quantity similar to the ice cream scoop of rice you get at a Thai restaurant. They measure pasta per person when they cook - a small handful each. A serving of pasta is 1-2 ounces. Here, when we get a bowl of pasta at a restaurant, you're getting ~8oz of pasta. That's half a pound! What you're eating in one meal, they eat over the course of 4-5 dinners. Their meals primarily consist of meat and vegetables with a small side of pasta.

                      2.) Their pizzas aren't like the pizzas here. They are thin, containing half the dough of a pizza here. And they don't make the pizza the meal. It's more like an appetizer.

                      3.) They walk everywhere in Italy to offset the sugars.

                      4.) Olive oil, olive oil, olive oil. I doubt you'll see bottles of Wesson in a kitchen in Italy.

                      5.) An overall reliance on home-cooked meals vs. processed frankenfoods.

                      While they eat grains, they eat less of them, eat more meat and vegetables, eat a diet lower in omega 6 and walk more. That's why they're thinner.

                      I come fro a big Italian family from South Jersey. We eat A LOT of bread and pasta. There are a lot of diabetics in my family. While none are morbidly obese, all the older people are heavy. I always was a chubby kid thanks to the diet. This is the leanest, most energetic and healthiest I've ever been in my life.

                      Italians have been eating grains longer than most cultures in the world, so we're less inclined to be celiac and have big issues. We've had more generations of weak links killed off than most cultures. Compare us to the Irish and we handle grain MUCH better, but it's still an issue. I don't intend to give up wheat for my entire life and once I reach my goal, I will enjoy pasta with my family again once a month or so - although in much smaller quantities. I'm from the school of thought that infrequent consumption won't hurt and could actually have benefits from the small amount of toxin not being enough to hurt you but enough to strengthen your body's defenses.
                      Don't put your trust in anyone on this forum, including me. You are the key to your own success.

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                      • #12
                        Hi fra0039

                        Where are you from? This is interesting as I had this discussion with a family friend on the weekend. He is a doctor and originally did my blood analysis for me and told me I had to watch the blood sugar, I had already watched Sugar the bitter pill and so it did not take a lot of research or effort to leap onto PB. Also watching and talking to Italians helped me process my ideas.

                        The first thing I noticed about my students etc was that there was not much snacking (adults and children, they wait to go home). I also teach at a primary school with a cafeteria, and the children got their bread last. After a small pasta dish, a piece of meat. Fruit was one piece of apple and juice was 1/2 a small glass. And never on the same day. If pasta was not served then it was brodo (broth) with a small amount of pasta. Additionally, I think children with no problems can probably have more carbohydrates then adults who sit on their arse.

                        If you look at traditional Neapolitan cuisine, the pizza's are thin, thin, thin with a big chunk of mozzarella for protein and tomato (I would like to think that facilitates the sunbaking!) The dish of salsiccia and friarelli (sausages and wild broccoli) is primal. and the traditional food is quite nutritious, they ate nose to tail, lots of fish, lots of olive oil and vegetables. The fun food, that people eat when they are in Italy for example lasagne (originally a dish to use up meat and eggs before lent) and other celebratory dishes were for special occasions. They were not eaten every day. Also the big meal was lunch, which gave you time to digest.

                        Even though it would seem that Italy eats a lot of carbohydrates, I would question whether it was as much as we think and even if it is, Italy is a country of walking. You also have to consider timing and the good weather (facilitates lots of walking and vitamin d).

                        As that changes, ie more sedentary lifestyle and more influenced by the States agriculture in particular, that will and it has changed, you are seeing some problems particularly with obesity and diabetes 2 in the south of the country.

                        In the west we took the pasta and had a big heaping bowl of pasta for dinner, we did not take their other good habits. Small amount of pasta, meat for main, lots of fish, small piece of cheese, dessert on a Sunday.

                        If you are healthy than I think the Mediterranean diet is great, but the way that the pasta, pizza and thick foccacias is packaged to the rest of the world is not good and it is now being repackaged back to Italy, along with low fat dairy and other junk.

                        So although I think there may be more carbs eaten in Italy then perhaps PB would recommend, you have to think of the quality, how it is eaten, the health of the person involved and what else they are eating and the amount of exercise. Even tourists find eating loads of pizza and gelati with lots of walking they tend to be okay.
                        Life. Be in it.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Laconophile View Post
                          I think it takes extraordinary circumstances to have high rates of obesity. It's not just grains, there is just too many things wrong with nutrition here to blame obesity on grains.
                          Overall heavy carb content, high omega 6 vegetable oils, lack of sunlight, lack of exercise, completely sedentary work place, high stress jobs/family life, heavy reliance on processed foods, high levels of soy lowering testosterone and raising estrogen, a huge pharmaceutical industry that benefits from us being sick and dictates which studies get published and which don't in medical journals...it's like the perfect shitstorm.
                          Don't put your trust in anyone on this forum, including me. You are the key to your own success.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Laconophile View Post
                            I think it takes extraordinary circumstances to have high rates of obesity. It's not just grains, there is just too many things wrong with nutrition here to blame obesity on grains.
                            It's not as simple as grains = obesity. It's more like grains (mainly gluten)= inflammation. This is why you want to know your CRP number. It takes time to do the damage.

                            The obesity epidemic is attributed to the low fat craze, which prompted food companies to take fat out of food and replace it with sugars.

                            The Italians consume less Frankenfood than Americans. Go there and look around. There is grilled fish at a roadside stop instead of burgers and fries. The have olive oil on the tables instead of catsup. Pizza crust is very thin and they don't eat a ton of it.

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                            • #15
                              Healthier eating habits, no snacking etc - maybe the majority are leptin sensitive? Compare the snack aisle in say a French supermarket to one (sorry 5) in the UK and US supermarkets.

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