food and health

The first BCFN stakeholder workshop on the Mediterranean diet: Carbohydrates

The BCFN has organized a series of Stakeholder Workshops scheduled to take place between 2016 and 2018 geared towards gaining a better understanding of the primary nutrients of the Mediterranean diet: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.

Quantitatively speaking, carbohydrates are the body’s first and most important source of energy, in that they supply the “fuel” required by all tissues. Carbohydrates, especially “complex” carbohydrates, have always been at the foundation of the Mediterranean diet, officially considered the model of healthy and sustainable dietary habits, and have a great deal of scientific support behind them. However, these days, fewer and fewer people are consuming foods that include the proper quantity and quality of this nutrient.
In fact, recently, people have shown a marked preference for foods rich in refined carbohydrates and sugars (like those made with highly refined grains, sweets, juices, and sugar-sweetened beverages in general), which should actually be consumed in moderation and which are partially responsible for the worldwide epidemic of obesity. This is further compounded by a progressive distancing from the Mediterranean model, in which foods rich in complex carbohydrates, such as bread and grains (especially whole grains), legumes, fruit, and nuts are eaten on a daily basis.
Unfortunately- says Aviva Must, a professor at Tufts University (USA) and one of the experts invited to participate in the BCFN workshop- there is the perception that carbohydrates are not good for you. This is a gross oversimplification that tries to break down a complicated situation into ‘good or bad’. There are a lot of different types of carbohydrates and some of them are very good for your health. We know that high fibre-diets promote good health. We know that whole grains, that are rich in fibre, are good for your health. These are good carbohydrates. And on the other side, we know that diets that have a lot of added sugar, a lot of calories from sugar-sweetened beverages, those diets are less healthy. So, I think the notion of carbohydrates as a single element is problematic.

Since its foundation, the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition (BCFN) has been committed to highlighting paradoxes such as the one just described and encouraging the exchange of opinions, experiences, information, and ideas regarding the topic of sustainable nutrition in the field of research, with the political/governmental world and with the public. In the hopes of facilitating an understanding of the most important aspects of the Mediterranean diet, three themed Stakeholder Workshops have been scheduled to take place between 2016 and 2018, focusing on carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
The first Stakeholder Workshop, entitled “A tour around the Mediterranean Diet: Carbohydrates” took place in Parma at the end of September. For the occasion 15 world famous experts were invited, representing the field of research and with specific expertise in medicine, public health, and nutrition, in order to analyse and clarify the new scientific frontier regarding the role of carbohydrates in a proper diet and analyse the primary communicative challenges for the immediate future. The objective was not to define new guidelines, but to issue a call to action: a document for civil society, the academic world, and policy makers, able to clearly and scientifically summarize the main critical issues regarding carbohydrates, as well as to identify new paradigms from which to once again begin identifying the steps necessary for re-establishing a diet that is based on the proper consumption of carbohydrates.

The call to action will be officially presented during the 7th International Forum on Food & Nutrition, to be held on 1 December, at Bocconi University in Milan, and will be made publicly available after that date.



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