Seminar Rationale & Objectives

 

The concept of "Mediterranean diet", from a strictly nutritional point of view, is defined by the dietary habits of populations dwelling in the lands surrounding the Mediterranean sea at about the half of the 20th century and consisting in a regime characterized by a high consumption of plant products and moderate to low amounts of fish, meat and dairy products, simple sugars and wine taken with meals.

On the basis of ecological, prospective and more recently intervention trials, this dietary pattern is recognized to be associated with lower incidence and lower death rates from cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Moreover, the Mediterranean diet has also been shown to have a low environmental impact in terms of use of soil, energy requirement, water consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Due to its respect for biodiversity, the natural geophysical characteristics and the gastronomic traditions of the territory, the Mediterranean Diet was awarded in 2010 by the UNESCO “intangible heritage of mankind”.

Despite of the recognized benefits for the human health and for our planet's environment, however, it is nowadays largely recognized by all the leading experts that the eating habits of the “Mediterranean” populations have been gradually shifting away in the last fifty years from the traditional model due to a growing consumption of animal products with reduction in the use of plant products, with the resulting higher intake of saturated fats and animal protein in place of plant protein and fat, wholegrain cereals and dietary fiber. These negative changes are further associated with excess salt and added sugar intake (the latter largely in the form of sweetened beverages) as well as with increased consumption of alcoholic beverages, a progressively more sedentary lifestyle and the subsequent increase in the prevalence of obesity.

This negative trend requires a strong commitment on the part of nutritionists, public health institutions and the food industry for a revitalization of the Mediterranean diet hopefully allowing to overcome the current problems and leading it to recover its fundamental characteristics.

The Ancel Keys International Seminar is intended to provide a contribution to this important goal by giving start to a high-level teaching action aiming at:

1) providing young researchers, health professionals and food operators the instruments to mature full knowledge and awareness of the ways useful to implement a modern effective Mediterranean-like dietary pattern;

2) helping generate an international young investigators and field workers network highly qualified to take action and develop synergic initiatives for the revitalization and diffusion of the Mediterranean diet worldwide.