In 2010, the FAO defined sustainable diets as “diets with low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations. Sustainable diets are protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally acceptable, accessible, economically fair and affordable; nutritionally adequate, safe and healthy; while optimizing natural and human resources”.
It has been pointed out that the Mediterranean Diet, as a model of sustainable diet par excellence, is able to bring four benefits to HEALTH, ENVIRONMENT, SOCIETY AND CULTURE, AND ECONOMY.
HEALTH IMPACT – In recent decades, the MD has been promoted as one of the healthiest dietary patterns, capable of preventing the onset of different chronic-degenerative diseases (cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, obesity, and some cancers), reducing all-cause mortality and promoting longevity. It is also able to prevent the triple burden of malnutrition (underweight, hidden hunger, overweight). In particular, its positive effects are represented by an improvement in the lipid profile with a consequent reduction in cardiovascular risk; an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-platelet action; a reduction in the risk of cancer, due to its contribution to preventing and counteracting cell degeneration and cancer cells proliferation.
ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT – It is an environmentally and planet-friendly dietary model. It provides for a limited use of natural resources (soil, water, lower greenhouse gas emissions) due to the predominant consumption of plant-based food. It contributes to the respect of seasonality and biodiversity, reducing intensive farming, transport use and costs, and related environmental impacts. It encourages the consumption of fresh and minimally processed food, further reducing environmental impact, and frugal portions, helping to reduce food waste.
SOCIO-CULTURAL IMPACT – It represents a precious cultural heritage based on conviviality, daily ritual, social and gastronomic practices, and celebrations. In MD food is an instrument of social relations, regardless of age and class. Furthermore, thanks to the link to the territory, seasonality, and biodiversity, it allows to disseminate greater food awareness and responsibility.
ECONOMIC IMPACT – In economic terms, it reduces healthcare costs due to the health benefits and prevention of chronic non-communicable diseases. It enhances the local area and contributes to the livelihood of local companies and producers.
Despite the benefits just described, today’s adherence to MD is increasingly low. In fact, urbanization and industrialization have led to a nutritional transition, characterized by an increasingly evident departure from this dietary pattern and, at the same time, a “westernization” of eating habits. The so-called Western Diet, consisting mainly of convenience foods, ultra-processed foods with high energy density, foods obtained from intensive farming and agriculture, and meals away from home (fast foods), has asserted itself, resulting in a worsening of the state of health and an increase in the incidence rates of chronic diseases and the phenomena of overweight and obesity; an increase in environmental pollution and over-exploitation of natural resources; and an unfavourable socio-cultural and economic impact.
1. Simposio Scientifico Internazionale: Biodiversità e diete sostenibili Uniti contro la fame. 2010 [cited 2019 Nov 10]. Available from: http://www.fao.org/ag/humannutrition/25918-0f89629169d179b29a284d08802cf9e89.pdf
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4. Pezzana Andrea, Tolomeo Martina, Pistone Erika, Guidi Sabrina. (2021). PROGETTO CCM -AZIONE CENTRALE 2019 DEL MINISTERO DELLA SALUTE (Segretariato generale) MODELLI DI DIETE SANE E SOSTENIBILI A PARTIRE DALLE DIETE TRADIZIONALI
Vocabolario ARIANNALa dieta mediterranea