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MEDIET4ALL, promoting the Mediterranean diet for a healthy and active lifestyle

The MEDIET4ALL research project – within the programme PRIMA (Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area), in Horizon 2020 – aspires to promote the Mediterranean diet in eight countries, for a healthy and active lifestyle (1,2). In an attempt to counter the spread of ultra-processed foods with unbalanced nutritional profiles, the consumption of which is associated with serious non-communicable diseases and premature mortality. (3)

1) Mediterranean diet and health

The Mediterranean diet – historically rooted in dietary models of Mediterranean countries it is characterized by the regular consumption of vegetables, fruit, cereals and legumes, nuts, extra virgin olive oil, fish, eggs, with moderate intakes of dairy products and meat.

Scientific literature converges in attributing a wide series of health benefits to the Mediterranean diet - from the pre-natal phase to old age, pregnancy and menopause - with favorable effects also on the immune, nervous and bone systems (4,5,6,7, 8). As well as mitigating cellular aging. (XNUMX)

2) Involution of eating patterns

The populations of the same countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, in recent decades, have progressively moved away from the Mediterranean diet by introducing ultra-processed foods into their diets. This involution of dietary patterns has led to a significant increase in obesity, childhood overweight and NCDs (Non-Communicable Diseases). (9)

MEDIETY4ALL aims to counter this trend and promote the 'return to the origins' of the Mediterranean diet in Spain, France, Italy, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia. With scientific contributions and extension of activities also in Germany and Luxembourg. Focusing attention on the key principles of this dietary model and the privilege of unprocessed or minimally processed foods. (10)

2.1) Causes

The involution of eating habits, has had a negative influence of significant impact on health and the socio-cultural ecosystem. (11) Several factors have contributed to this paradigm shift:

– modern social trends. Technological progress and changes in social models, hectic lifestyle and search for 'convenience', i.e. practicality of 'ready to eat' foods,

– food globalization. 'Corporations', intercontinental supply chains, artificial and standardized flavours, long shelf life, 'ultraprocessed foods' in every corner of the planet,

– aggressive marketing. Audiovisual media services, social networks, influencers to re-shape the consumption of 'attractive' rather than nutritious products,

– Fast food, take-away. Quick and easily accessible food solutions, also from an economic point of view. At the 'only' price of health.

2.2) Consequences

Pollution of the Mediterranean diet with 'ultraprocessed foods' (UPFs) has as its first consequence the imbalance between the energy consumed through food and that consumed in daily life which is too often sedentary, as noted in the UN reportGlobal Status on Physical Activity 2022'. (12)

A key objective of the #MEDIET4ALL project is therefore to address the growing prevalence of obesity, starting from childhood, detected by WHO Europe (2022) and ISS (2022) in Italy (13,14). The researchers aim to help the population understand the role of ultra-processed foods in daily energy balance.

3) MEDIET4ALL, elements of innovation

The multidisciplinary approach of MEDIET4ALL involves experts from different countries in Europe and North Africa in the different sectors of nutrition and food technology, sports science, information technology and education. The researchers will conduct online surveys to understand the habits of Euro-Mediterranean consumers and develop on this basis a series of activities that include public awareness campaigns and an interactive app - with educational and playful elements (i.e. nutrition, cooking courses) - to better encourage the adoption of the Mediterranean diet.

4) Sustainability of food consumption and production

La app MEDIET4ALL is presented as an 'intelligent lifestyle agent'. Cooking lessons and digital resources can facilitate adherence to the Mediterranean diet in everyday life. Even using local raw materials from different geographical areas, as was demonstrated in a recent study conducted in the UK on 110.000 adults followed for nine years (Maroto-Rodriguez et al., 2023). (2)

The 'Farm to Fork' towards minimally processed foods also takes on importance in terms of the sustainability of consumption and agri-food production (#sdg12), in terms of energy and water saving, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, soil conservation. And in this broader vision - well illustrated by the project coordinator, Dr. Achraf Ammar (Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, D) - there is also a research and development activity on biodegradable packaging.

5) 'Farm to Fork', the role of research and innovation

The EU 'farm to fork' strategy, as we have seen, has largely stalled on the political front due to the European Parliament's strenuous and unpredictable opposition to some of its key projects, from the BECA (Beating Cancer Plan) to the proposed SUR (Sustainable Use and Reduction of pesticides) regulation See notes 15,16).

Research and innovation assume even more a fundamental role for the development of good practices and 'science-based' solutions, the verification of their effectiveness on various segments of the population in different social and cultural contexts, the proposition of 'policy briefs' for policy coordination and administration at various EU, national and local levels.

Dario Dongo and Gabriele Sapienza

Footnotes

(1) MEDIET4ALL https://mel.cgiar.org/projects/1843#work

(2) Dario Dongo. Physical exercise, rest and socializing, the benefits of the Mediterranean diet lifestyle. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(3) Dario Dongo, Andrea Adelmo Della Penna. Ultraprocessed foods, disease and premature mortality. I study in Italy. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(4) Giulia Pietrollini. Mediterranean diet and reduction of pathologies adverse to pregnancy. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(5) Marta Strinati. Lose weight in menopause with the Mediterranean diet. Scientific study. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(6) Marta Strinati. Mediterranean diet and immune system, new scientific evidence. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(7) Andreo-López, MC; Contreras-Bolívar, V.; García-Fontana, B.; García-Fontana, C.; Muñoz-Torres, M. The Influence of the Mediterranean Dietary Pattern on Osteoporosis and Sarcopenia. Nutrients 2023, 15, 3224. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu15143224

(8) Dario Dongo, Andrea Adelmo Della Penna. Genetic modifications and aging, ultra-processed foods vs Mediterranean diet. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(9) Dario Dongo, Giulia Baldelli. Mediterranean diet and childhood obesity, Europe upside down. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(10) Dernini S, Berry EM, Serra-Majem L, La Vecchia C, Capone R, Medina FX, Aranceta-Barterin J, Belahsen R, Burlingame B, Calabrese G, Corella D, Donini LM, Lairon D, Meybeck A, Pekcan AG, Piscopo S, Yngve A, Trichopoulou A. Med Diet 4.0: the Mediterranean diet with four sustainable benefits. Public Health Nutr. 2017 May;20(7):1322-1330. doi: 10.1017/S1368980016003177. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10261651/

(11) Mertens E, Colizzi C, Peñalvo JL. Ultra-processed food consumption in adults across Europe. Eur J Nutr. 2022 Apr;61(3):1521-1539. doi: 10.1007/s00394-021-02733-7 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8921104/

(11) JGU, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (D). New EU project explores the Mediterranean diet as basis of a healthy active lifestyle. Press release, 14.11.23 https://press.uni-mainz.de/new-eu-project-explores-the-mediterranean-diet-as-basis-of-a-healthy-active-lifestyle/

(12) Marta Strinati. Physical activity extends life, but governments are still standing still. UN report. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(13) Dario Dongo, Sabrina Bergamini. Obesity, childhood obesity and marketing. WHO Europe 2022 report. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(14) Dario Dongo, Andrea Adelmo Della Penna. Italy, overweight and obesity in adults and the elderly. ISS studies. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(15) Isis Consuelo Sanlucar Chirinos. Alcoholic drinks, the EU Parliament cancels the proposed label warning about alcohol and cancer risks. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 18.2.22

(16) Dario Dongo. No to reducing pesticides, yes to glyphosate. ToxicEurope. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 23.11.23

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.

Trainee Assistant Researcher | Website URL | + posts

Graduated in Agriculture, with experience in sustainable agriculture and permaculture, laboratory and ecological monitoring.

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