Ten years ago, on November 16, 2010, Unesco approved in Nairobi (Kenya) the inscription of the Mediterranean Diet on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Unesco considers that the Mediterranean Diet is an intangible cultural heritage that is transmitted from generation to generation, as an expression, use or knowledge that is constantly reinvented by communities and groups, depending on their environment, which interacts with nature and history, and that instills a sense of identity and continuity, thus helping to promote respect for cultural diversity and human creativity.
The idea for this project arose in Spain, the result of a joint effort between the then Ministry of the Environment and Rural and Marine Affairs (MARM) and the Mediterranean Diet Foundation, promoting the work to prepare the transnational candidacy document, in which also participated Greece, Italy and Morocco.
This document allowed Unesco to positively assess the meaning and what the Mediterranean Diet represents in these four countries, from its different cultural, social, historical, gastronomic and food aspects, as well as from the environmental, landscape and customs point of view.
The inscription of the Mediterranean Diet in the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage allows its protection, conservation and transmission. In this sense, safeguard and protect this historical and cultural legacy, in addition to promoting the maintenance of a healthy eating pattern, promoting the social benefits of sustainable rural development, such as maintaining the population in the territory and the conservation of characteristic landscapes.
Likewise, it contributes to giving value to Mediterranean products, and to spreading rural, cultural and gastronomic tourism associated with the Mediterranean Diet as well as to enriching cultural exchange and cooperation between the Mediterranean countries of the south to promote this appreciation in their own territories.
The North American physiologist Ancel Keys was the one who, in the middle of the last century, coined the term Mediterranean Diet, when he found that the inhabitants of that area of the world, in which the olive trees and olive oils had better cardiovascular health than other western populations. He concluded that the key was in the food model that these societies share. The Mediterranean Diet was born as a healthy eating model.
For the Mediterranean Diet Foundation, this eating pattern represents a valuable cultural heritage, which, based on simplicity and variety, has resulted in a balanced and complete combination of foods, based on fresh, local and seasonal products to the extent of the possible.
Among these foods, the use of virgin and extra virgin olive oil as the main source of fat stands out. And there are many benefits of this product and its components. Thus, EVOOs reduce blood pressure, have antisclerotic and anti-inflammatory effects, and help prevent cardiovascular diseases. Its regular consumption can also reduce the risk of developing some types of cancers and, on an environmental level, helps to take care of the planet in its production process.
The Interprofessional emphasizes that it should not be forgotten that the characterization of this eating model is closely linked to one of the pioneering studies on the effects of diet on health, known as the Seven Countries Study. They found that populations in southern Europe had a much lower risk of cardiovascular events than those in other parts of the world. From this initial impulse, scientists from all over the world have learned in more detail the benefits of olive oil consumption, as a fundamental ingredient of the Mediterranean Diet.
Thus, the Predimed Study stands out that, after 10 years of work, found that the consumption of a Mediterranean Diet rich in extra virgin olive oil is very beneficial for health, being able to reduce the risk of myocardial infarction by 30% , stroke, or cardiovascular death, when compared to people who ate a low-fat diet. Likewise, a 40% reduction in the risk of developing diabetes was found compared to the control group. Beneficial effects that could also be verified on cognitive impairment in older people, as well as on circulatory problems in the extremities.
All this evidence is penetrating the medical community and the health authorities of many countries around the world. Without going any further, as this organization recalls, the United States Government, in its Dietary Guidelines for North Americans, recognized the Mediterranean Diet as one of the three most recommended for its citizens in its 2015-2020 edition. Just a year ago, the Bloomberg Agency confirmed Spain as the healthiest country in the world, largely due to the healthy virtues of its eating pattern.