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The Mediterranean diet, a model for healthy living that can help curb rising obesity

FAO Director-General calls for greater promotion of a dietary pattern that can also contribute to preserve the environment and empower local producers

FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva addresses the conference in a video message

15 May 2019, Rome/Palermo – Redoubling efforts to promote the Mediterranean diet could lead to better health for all and help curb the rising levels of obesity while fostering sustainable food systems, preserving the environment and empowering local producers, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said today.

“The world is no longer concerned only with hunger. We are now experiencing a form of malnutrition that is even more worrisome: the epidemics of obesity,” he said in a video message to participants gathered in Palermo for the Second World Conference on the Revitalization of the Mediterranean Diet.

After a decade of progress, world hunger is on the rise again, mainly due to conflicts and to the impacts of climate change, especially prolonged droughts. But while around one person out of every nine in the world is hungry -more than 672 million adults –, more than one out of ten people- are obese, Graziano da Silva noted.

“Unfortunately, according to some projections, if we keep business-as-usual half of humanity will be obese or overweight in 2030 - the deadline for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals,” he said.

“Poor and unhealthy food are also increasingly being associated as major causes of chronic diseases and death,” he added.

At the same time, climate change, biodiversity loss and the deterioration of natural resources are seriously undermining our ability to feed and nourish an ever-growing global population, Graziano da Silva warned.

The Mediterranean diet, “more than a nutritional model”

The FAO Director-General noted that due to its diversity and to the intensive consumption of vegetables, fruits and fish, the Mediterranean Diet is recognized as a healthy dietary pattern linked to better health outcomes than other models.

UNESCO has declared the Mediterranean Diet as one of the world’s intangible cultural heritage, as it holds other environmental, social and economic benefits.

“The Mediterranean Diet is more than a reference nutritional model,” he said: “It is also the expression of the culture and lifestyle of the Mediterranean people carried out by centuries. From the field to the plate, the Mediterranean diet offers extraordinary economic opportunities and provides sustainable jobs respectful of people and ecosystems.”

For the CIHEAM, the Mediterranean diet contributes to the sustainability of food systems, making production and consumption more responsible. It contributes to building a positive and prosperous Mediterranean and can be a strategic pillar of North-South cooperation and dialogue in the region.

The two-day event is coorganized by the International Centre for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies (CIHEAM), the Union for the Mediterranean, the International Foundation of Mediterranean Diet (IFMeD), the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the International Cooperation,  the European Federation of Nutrition Societies, the Sicilian Region, the city of Palermo, and counts with technical support from FAO.