Four Tomatoes

How Mediterranean Is the Mediterranean Diet?

The Mediterranean diet is all but dead to children in Mediterranean countries. The WHO’s Jao Breda described the problem at ECO2018 this week:

The Mediterranean diet for the children in these countries is gone. There is no Mediterranean diet any more. Those who are close to the Mediterranean diet are the Swedish kids. The Mediterranean diet is gone and we need to recover it.

His observations came in a keynote address to the congress. At the same time, he unveiled the latest data on childhood obesity. As the quality of children’s diets in this region have declined, childhood obesity prevalence has soared.

Dietary Patterns Migrate Globally

While this traditional diet fades in southern Europe, its popularity grows elsewhere. Meifang Chen, Kevin Fontaine, and colleagues presented data on how people are adopting this diet in the U.S. They used a technique called geospatial analysis to find hotspots of people following the diet closely. In southern and north central states, they didn’t find much. But on the west coast and in the northeast, they found an abundance of people following this pattern for healthful eating.

Coincidentally, the states with seemingly little interest are also states that have some of the highest obesity rates.

Meanwhile, some typically American foods are migrating into the Mediterranean region. Along with sugary drinks, sweet and salty snack foods are displacing fruits and vegetables in the diet there. The Guardian describes the food scene at a shopping complex in Spain:

If visitors are not in the mood for a McDonald’s, Burger King or Subway, there’s a KFC, a kebab restaurant, a noodle place, a sandwich bar, a tex-mex joint, a US-style diner or two Italian chains. Steak lovers can choose between Argentinian, Brazilian or American options, while a lone outlet meekly peddles “healthy Asian food”.

Conspicuous by their absence – barring a couple of tapas restaurants – are places offering the kind of traditional Spanish food that forms part of the celebrated Mediterranean diet.

Dietary globalization is here and it has a downside.

Click here and here for more from the Guardian. For more from Chen and Fontaine’s study, click here and here. The WHO surveillance data on childhood obesity in Europe is available here.

Four Tomatoes, photograph © grobery / flickr

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Month 26, 2018