Why are Americans More Likely to Get Diabetes?
The Better Question is Why Are Italians So Darned Healthy?
Of course, one of the main reasons for Italians staying so healthy is the way they eat. There is the Mediterranean diet itself, fish, fresh vegetables, fruit and the use of olive oil in cooking. Meats in Italy are not eaten in large quantities as in the U.S. and the amount of fat in the meats they prefer is also less. Meat is eaten as a separate course in smaller quantities, if at all. Lean pork is popular.
Alcoholic beverages are typically drunk with meals and binge drinking is not a socially acceptable concept (although the young are going to clubs and bars more and more). And of course, there's the health benefits many studies have attributed to drinking a moderate amount of red wine in one's diet. In general, the Mediterranean Diet, especially with its use of olive oil (a mono-unsaturated fat) over butter, is considered Heart Healthy by most studies. People who use olive oil tend to have a lower risk factor of both heart attacks and strokes. Another healthy component in the Italian diet is garlic... and not just to keep vampires away. Garlic lowers the chance of heart disease, lowers blood pressure and prevents strokes. It also is very high in antioxidants, considered to aide in the prevention of Alzheimer's disease.
Even pasta and pizza are eaten differently in Italy. Italians eat simple pizzas with healthier toppings--not overloaded like American pizzas. Pasta is not served in large servings as in the States, either. As important for relieving stress in life, most families in Italy eat the family meal together--at the same time. Perhaps this promotes a feeling of well being and affords a sense of comfort to la famiglia.
Italians live longer, too. Why? One reason is the inherent exercise in their daily routines. Many Italians in towns throughout Italy take a walk after dinner, usually with their family members and children... the Passeggiata. Communing with neighbors and relatives while talking a leisurely stroll through town adds to one's well being.
In addition, the number of hills and steps the average Italian has to negotiate in their daily lives is much more than in the U.S. Most towns were built in an era of feudal warfare, causing them to be built on top of hills and cliffs for protection of their community. This means that most towns are very hilly and have thousands of steps and inclines. It amazed me whenever I saw octogenarians with canes going to the local alimentari to do their daily shopping. Exercise is something they get, whether they plan on it or not. During my three week Voyage though Italy, I lost 18 pounds, even though I felt like I was eating everything in sight... and gelato sometimes twice a day!
And what about all that pasta and it's effect--especially concerning diabetes? Italians cook their pasta al dente (to the tooth), while Americans tend to eat soft, overcooked pasta. Overcooked pasta has a higher glycemic index, meaning that it can raise your blood glucose. Italians also have smaller portions that Americans do. Think about that the next time you order an overloaded plate of pasta at your local pizzeria or Italian-American restaurant. The rich, Alfredo cream sauce is unknown to most Italians. If you enjoy an Alfredo pasta once in a while, put much less sauce on your pasta. I've seen Alfredo sauce overloaded in most Italian restaurants to the point where the pasta can't be seen! Italians eat pasta without heavy sauces.
Oh, and one more thing. Stay away from faux Italian joints like Olive Tree. There is nothing on their menu that is anything like the healthy Mediterranean diet. There is no such thing as dipping bread in olive oil in Italy, and Italians don't automatically put a large bowl of bread or garlic knots (an American thing) on their tables.
Consider this old Italian saying... La salute prima di tutto! - Health is first of all!