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Mediterranean Diet on Decline as Fast food takes Over

Posted Nov 21 2008 4:30pm

A report by the UN’s food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has revealed that the people of Mediterranean countries are increasingly spurning the traditional low-fat diet of fruit, vegetables and olive oil. The invasion of supermarkets and notably fast-food in countries such as Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal has also led to a huge increase in obesity.

The most dramatic example of this is Greece. Today, 56 of the population of the European Union are overweight, with 15 percent obese. The report shows that Greece’s population has three quarters overweight with more than 25 percent obese – the highest proportion in the EU.

The med-diet was typically the diet of the poor. The citizens did hard physical labour and could not afford meat, so remained healthy. Rising affluence in these countries now means that the populations are eating more foods with high levels of salt, sugar and animal fat. As a result, says the author of the report, the FAO’s senior economist Josef Schmidhuber, the famed diet has “decayed into a moribund state” in its home region

The benefits of the Med-diet are renowned. A 2005 study found that a healthy man of 60 who stuck closely to the diet could expect to live around one year longer than a man who did not.

In recent months, Spain, backed by Italy, Greece and Morocco, has been campaigning to have the diet included in Unesco’s World Heritage list. Paolo de Castro, a former Italian Agriculture minister, said last month: “The Mediterranean diet is a heritage that should be protected and shared. Science has long recognised the unusual health properties of the diet, which has strengthened and accompanied the common cultural identity of Mediterranean countries.

“The diet is an integral part of the historical and cultural identity of the Mediterranean, and an opportunity for growth for the countries in the area.”

Weight league: Europe’s top 10

Greece: 75.6% overweight, 26.2% obese

Finland: 63.8% overweight, 18% obese

Germany: 63.7% overweight, 19.7% obese

Britain: 62.5% overweight, 18.7% obese

Austria: 59% overweight, 14.8% obese

Spain: 55.7% overweight, 15.6% obese

Portugal: 55.5% overweight, 13.1% obese

Italy: 51.9% overweight, 12.2% obese

Denmark: 50.7% overweight; 9.6% obese

Ireland: 50% overweight; 9.5% obese

Source: WHO Global InfoBase

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Friday, August 1st, 2008 at 8:52 am
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