The ARIANNA project

BACKGROUND: The Mediterranean Diet (MD) is a dietary pattern characterized by frequent consumption of olive oil, spices, legumes, fish, fruit and vegetables, and moderate consumption of wholegrain cereals. MD owes its name to the physiologist Ancel Keys, who noted, during a trip to Cilento (Southern Italy) and the island of Crete in the late 1950s, that the dietary habits in these regions were associated with a lower frequency of cardiovascular diseases and greater longevity in the population. MD also includes habits and lifestyles characterized by conviviality and sharing of meals, recipes linked to tradition, and connection to the territory.

Over the years, a great deal of significant epidemiological evidence has accumulated on the effects of MD on health outcomes. It is now well-established in the scientific literature that MD is associated with a lower prevalence of obesity and a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases, cancers, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome, compared to the Western dietary style. In addition, MD reduces all-cause mortality. The Mediterranean dietary pattern also represents a sustainable food model characterized by a lower environmental impact because of the high presence of plant-based foods, that contribute least to energy and water consumption, agriculture land use, and emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs).

Recent reports in the scientific literature have shown that the Italian population has not been longer following a Mediterranean dietary pattern. Especially among adolescents, dietary habits are increasingly “westernized” and “globalized”. The only two studies available on the Italian population reported respectively that only 5% of primary school children and 16% of high school students have good adherence to MD.

These studies were carried out on a small number of children and in very limited regional settings. Furthermore, the exact extent of DM drop-out is unknown and, above all, it is not known which age groups present this phenomenon most strongly on a national scale.

The activities of this project are linked to the Italian technical table for the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition which has the objective, among others, to generate scientific documentation for the promotion of the Mediterranean Diet, as a model of traditional diets, which can be considered a public health tool for the prevention of chronic communicable diseases and a tool for the prevention of the triple burden of malnutrition.

The aim of this project is to assess adherence to the MD through validated score systems in the different age groups of the Italian population.