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The tenth anniversary as a UNESCO world cultural heritage: an unmissable opportunity to get back to the cultural roots of the Mediterranean diet


In 2010, the Mediterranean diet was awarded the recognition of UNESCO as an Intangible Heritage of Humanity because of its complex interplay between several factors, including skills, knowledge, processing, cooking, and particularly the sharing and consumption of food. Also, the Mediterranean way of eating emphasizes local food, seasonality and biodiversity. Actually, all these aspects are almost completely neglected by the current nutrition research, which rather focuses on amount of food consumed by an individual or a given population but rarely simultaneously considers how foods are matched, whether they are locally-grown or consumed convivially. Basically, nutritional epidemiology usually ends up with classifying populations as highly or poorly adhering to a Mediterranean diet on the basis of the quantity of food consumed with poor or little knowledge on other features of this eating model. As such, this approach is likely to miss important information that could turn out to be as crucial for health as the traditional analysis of food intake. Since a global industrial food system has emerged, traditional diets are facing a global food challenge threating their own survival in the next decades. To transmit the Mediterranean heritage to future generations, it is important to get back to its roots by disentangling the complexity of this diet, which is not merely a healthful model to defeat chronic diseases and improve survival. The Mediterranean diet is a cultural heritage strictly tied to its people and territories. Nutritional epidemiology is now challenged to account for all these aspects in future health research.

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Fig. 1: Adherence to a traditional Mediterranean Diet and consumption of locally-grown or organic food among 2,001 participants of the Moli-sani Study cohort, Italy (2017–2020).

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Correspondence to Marialaura Bonaccio.

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Bonaccio, M., Iacoviello, L., Donati, M.B. et al. The tenth anniversary as a UNESCO world cultural heritage: an unmissable opportunity to get back to the cultural roots of the Mediterranean diet. Eur J Clin Nutr 76, 179–183 (2022).

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