- Iker Badiola
- The Conversation*
Roseto is a small town in the state of Pennsylvania, in the United States.
This urban nucleus was founded entirely by immigrants from a small Italian town located at the foot of the Apennines called Roseto Valfortore.
At the end of the 19th century, the Italian people experienced a great migratory flow and the Rosettes spread all over the world.
A very important group immigrated to the state of Pennsylvania intending to work near a slate quarry. With the passing of the years, the Rosetians founded a whole town that they named Roseto in homage to their origins.
In the mid-20th century, Roseto was an American town like any other.
Among other services, he had a doctor. It was this doctor who alerted the doctor Stewart Wolf (ultimately one of the fathers of psychosomatic medicine) of a peculiar fact that happened in Roseto: the Rosetians hardly suffered from cardiovascular diseases.
In search of the Rosetians’ secret
In the 1950s, cardiovascular disease was among the leading causes of death in the United States. In contrast, in this small town in the state of Pennsylvania, people were not treated for these types of conditions.
Dr. Wolf began to study the population of Roseto taking into account medical parameters.
At first, the hypothesis was considered that eating habitsicios typical of a Mediterranean community benefited these immigrants compared to the American population that ate a diet based on sugars and proteins.
But the Rosetians had acquired the eating habits of American society and even in Dr. Wolf’s notes it was observed that smoking was widespread among the population, something that must seriously damage the cardiovascular health of the Rosettes.
Once the aforementioned hypothesis was discarded, the following assumption was directed to the genetic of the rosetians.
But when studying the incidence of cardiovascular disease in other Rosetians who did not reside in the population, this hypothesis was also discarded.
Those who resided in other parts of the United States suffered from cardiovascular disease with the same incidence as other Americans.
The following study focused on the analysis of the geographical area in which they lived, but neighboring populations such as Bangor or Nazareth had the same incidence rates as other populations in the United States.
Dr. Wolf had the collaboration of the sociologist John Bruhn, who turned out to be vital in unraveling the Roseto mystery. They both observed that the Rosetians had built a very cohesive community.
They all helped each other. In a population of just 2,000 there were 22 civic organizations.
Houses where three generations lived were unusually frequent.
On Sundays, the entire town gathered at the Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish to celebrate mass together.
Egalitarianism was greatly enhanced and the most fortunate helped the most disadvantaged.
In short, the feeling of community was extraordinary for a community settled in a country where individualism prevailed greatly.
Loneliness and cortisol
Today we know that the loneliness that the Rosetians avoided increases stress levels, the great evil of developed countries.
Stress increases the hormone in our body cortisol. This is produced by the adrenal gland and prepares the body for times when we have to accelerate our metabolic activity in response to external conditions.
But the constant exposure of tissues to cortisol causes an increase in blood pressure and a depression of the immune system that ends up leading to cardiovascular diseases.
The Rosetians gave us a nice experiment with which demonstrated the group nature of the human being.
They taught us that Homo sapiens is a social animal, contrary to the new individualistic tendencies that are imposed in developed countries.
* Iker Badiola (Ondarroa, Bizkaia, 1978) is a professor and researcher at the Faculty of Medicine and Nursing of the University of the Basque Country, Spain.
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