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  • Print publication year: 2000
  • Online publication date: March 2008

V.C.1 - The Mediterranean (Diets and Disease Prevention)

from V.C - The History and Culture of Food and Drink in Europe
Summary

The basic elements of healthful diets are well established (USDHHS 1988; National Research Council 1989; USDA/USDHHS 1995). They provide adequate amounts of energy and essential nutrients, reduce risks for diet-related chronic diseases, and derive from foods that are available, affordable, safe, and palatable. A very large body of research accumulated since the mid-1950s clearly indicates that healthful diets are based primarily on fruits, vegetables, and grains, with smaller quantities of meat and dairy foods than are typically included in current diets in the United States and other Western countries (James 1988; USDHHS 1988; National Research Council 1989).

Throughout the course of history, societies have developed a great variety of ways to combine the foods that are available to them (as a result of geography, climate, trade, and cultural preferences) into characteristic dietary patterns. In some areas, typical diets have developed patterns so complex, varied, and interesting in taste that they have come to be identified as particular cuisines. Some of these, most notably those of Asia and the Mediterranean, seem to bless the populations that consume them with substantially lower levels of coronary heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes mellitus, and other chronic diseases than those suffered by other peoples. Consequently, such apparent relationships between cuisines and health have created much interest in traditional dietary patterns.

Illustrative is the current interest in Mediterranean diets that has been stimulated by the unusually low levels of chronic diseases and the longer life expectancies enjoyed by adults residing in certain regions bordering the Mediterranean Sea (WHO 1994). context of those factors usually associated with disease prevention in industrialized countries, such as educational levels, financial status, and health-care expenditures. Indeed, the percentages of those who are poor in Mediterranean regions are often quite high relative to those of more developed economies (World Bank 1993). To explain this paradox, researchers have focused on other lifestyle characteristics associated with good health, and especially on the various constituents of the typical Mediterranean diet.

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The Cambridge World History of Food
  • Online ISBN: 9781139058643
  • Book DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521402156
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