The Mediterranean diet has often been cited for its preventive action against cardiovascular diseases, combating diabetes, overweight and obesity, cancer prevention and treatment, and favoring longevity. The Mediterranean diet, now much praised by talk shows, books and seminars, has really reduced an advertising slogan in which to talk about health, paradoxically forgetting how we feed it!
If today Ancel Keys returned to the countries he took as a reference to postulate the Mediterranean Diet of the Seven Countries Study,from which emerged the important role of nutrition and the choice of foods for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases, would remain baffled! Nothing today is more like he had observed (and eaten) him. The seasonal nature of the products has given way to greenhouse production, to have every product available all year round. Traditional food and wine (Italy is a dense network of ancient culinary traditions) has been relegated to the tourist phenomenon of village festivals. Biodiversity has been flattened by farms and intensive crops and by the marketing of large distributions: only to talk about apples do we know more than 100 varieties of this fruit, but in the most supplied supermarkets there are only 5 or 6.The taste has been modified by the use of additives, preservatives and taste enhancers, not to mention food sophistication, alterations and adulterations. The delocalization of production, due to costs, and the globalization of product distribution, often due to incomplete and insufficient labeling, has made it more difficult to establish the origin of products and their "true" value. Today we are no longer able to establish the origin of the products we put on the table and the most serious thing is that often even the farmers do not know where the seeds they are about to plant come from. Almost all the foods that Ancel Keys praised as protective today are potentially dangerous to health: just think of how the refining of cereals and sugars in general, over the past 15 years, is responsible
Nowadays industrialization, globalization and refining simply make the Mediterranean diet difficult to implement, also thanks to media and advertising communication and the search for easy, fast and highly palatable food solutions that we all pursue.
Today we eat strawberries at Christmas and the fruit grows in greenhouses and matures in the refrigerators of the trucking to have all the first fruits all year round (but so the first fruits, that is the first fruits of every season, do not exist anymore!) You can guess how much we are far from the original values of the Mediterranean diet. In the frantic search for mass production, possibly low cost , we have lost the priceless value of tradition. The custodians of the ancient secrets that have characterized the enogastronomic diversity of our country are the few elderly who live in small towns that are gradually and inexorably emptied. Young people head like the moths towards the lights of the city attracted by the sparkling well-being represented by the " ready to eat"Forgetting the origins and traditions that for centuries have nourished us (both in soul and in body) and that today seem to belong only to history books. The Mediterranean diet is not just food ... in fact, perhaps it is only the means by which to share, socialize, exchange, teach and nourish the deepest part of us. And instead food today feeds only the cells ... and badly! Nutrition is today among the leading causes of disease worldwide.
In the book, the cornerstones of the Mediterranean diet are reviewed: wheat, oil, wine, meat, fish, milk and cheese, eggs, pulses, fruit and vegetables . Do we really know what we eat? How are they produced? What nutritional differences are there, for example, between ancient and modern grains? How much do they cost the planet? Do they feed us or feed us? Food must not only protect the health of the individual, but must also be respectful of the environment. Intensive farms are responsible for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Current food production is responsible for 21% of total greenhouse gas emissions resulting in climate change. Food culture leads to awareness, food awareness must guide our choices. But are we who choose what we buy or are "guided"?
The food industry uses us as pedestrians in the chessboard of the gastronomic offer. Without realizing it we have lost freedom of movement, the moves have already been studied previously! It is a subtle game, where advertising, market research, engineering, chemistry and much more are skillfully dosed. We are bombarded with direct, indirect and subliminal messages. Everything is put "artfully", from the products on the shelves to the advertisements repeated continuously, from the product placement in TV programs and in films to radio jingles. Marketing studies have evolved into " neuromarketing": Through the neurosciences have been studied the brain areas of the consumer to which are associated behaviors and unconscious choices. We have come to use functional magnetic resonance (fMRI) or electroencephalography (EEG), to understand what actually happens at the neuro-cognitive level in response to certain emotional stimuli, in order to identify the level of commercial efficacy. Even the flavors are no longer ours! The taste industry has built specific foods in the laboratory to meet the favor of the public, increasing the consumer's sense of pleasantness by generating very pleasant sensory experiences. Everything is wisely stimulated: taste, smell, sight, touch, but also the sensitivity of the oral cavity that recognizes crunchiness or creaminess, softness or consistency. This also deceives our balance of hunger and satiety by inviting us to eat again and again. Sugars cause dependence like smoking or alcohol! And the more the feeling of pleasure is articulated in the proven sensory symphony, the stronger the emotional and chemical bond that will push us to search for the magical food with dependence.
And all this leads us to consume more and more ... and to waste huge quantities of food. In Europe it is estimated that 89 million tons of food are discarded every year. Food is wasted at any stage of the food chain, from farm to fork, from producers, workers, retailers, restaurateurs and consumers. If we buy and eat a little less, we will waste much less food and be a little more in line.
But then there is no hope? Are we condemned to eat as the multinationals and large distributions impose on us? Absolutely not! We must reappropriate real food, the one that nourishes through conscious choices. Knowing to understand can seem like a slogan, but it requires commitment from all of us. The time taken to read the labels and choose where to shop is not lost ... but invested in health for ourselves and for the planet.
But when we talk about the Mediterranean diet we are not referring only to food. It is (should be) a lifestyle, a way of being that today we would call lifestyle. Ancel Keys did not put too much emphasis on active life, in those days it was a normal thing: we moved on foot or by bicycle (there were very few cars), most of the jobs were physical (still peasants and fishermen move a lot ... but they are much less) and in any case sedentary people were a small minority. He could not predict how many cars would populate the streets after just 60 years from his observational epidemiological study, nor imagine that the work would be transformed for most of us into a sedentary practice, nor assume that the smartphone would become an extension of the hand most of the adults and almost all the children.
The numbers on excess weight show a problem with a pandemic connotation: in our "small" Italy, a study (May 2017) by the National Center for Epidemiology, Surveillance and Health Promotion, shows that about 4 out of 10 adults are in excess weight: 3 overweight (with a body mass index - BMI - between 25 and 29.9) and 1 obese (BMI ≥ 30). And in the world of childhood it is certainly not better: "in the last 40 years, in the world, the number of obese children and adolescents (between 5 and 19 years) has increased by 10 times and in Italy the percentage of obese children and adolescents increased by almost 3 times in 2016 compared to 1975 ". This is what emerges from a study conducted by Imperial College London and the World Health Organization (WHO) whose results were published inThe Lancet in October 2017.
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