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Availability of Mediterranean and non-Mediterranean foods during the last four decades: comparison of several geographical areas

  • Daniela Vareiro (a1) (a2), Anna Bach-Faig (a1), Blanca Raidó Quintana (a1), Isabel Bertomeu (a1), Genevieve Buckland (a3), Maria Daniel Vaz de Almeida (a2) and Lluís Serra-Majem (a1)...
Abstract
Objective

The purpose of the present study was to evaluate the changes in the availability of the most important food components of the traditional Mediterranean diet and other food groups in five geographical areas during a 43-year period.

Design

Ecological study with food availability data obtained from FAO food balance sheets in forty-one countries for the period 1961–1965 and 2000–2004.

Setting

Mediterranean, Northern and Central Europe, Other Mediterranean countries and Other Countries of the World were the studied areas.

Results

The main changes since the 1960s, at an availability level, were found in European areas and in Other Mediterranean countries. The greatest changes were found in Mediterranean Europe, recording high availability of non-Mediterranean food groups (animal fats, vegetable oils, sugar and meat), whereas the availability of alcoholic beverages, including wine, and legumes decreased. Despite having lost some of its typical characteristics, Mediterranean Europe has more olive oil, vegetables, fruits and fish available than other areas. Although Northern Europe has a greater availability of non-Mediterranean foods, there has been a tendency towards a decrease in availability of some of these foods and to increase Mediterranean food such as olive oil and fruits.

Conclusions

The present study suggests that European countries, especially those in the Mediterranean area, have experienced a ‘westernisation’ process of food habits, and have increasingly similar patterns of food availability (mainly non-Mediterranean food groups) among them. Measures must be taken to counteract these tendencies and to avoid their possible negative consequences. It is also crucial to find ways to promote and preserve the Mediterranean diet and its lifestyle in modern societies.

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*Corresponding author: Email abach@fdmed.org
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Public Health Nutrition
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