7 Apr 2018

WORLD HEALTH DAY, BARILLA FOUNDATION: THE JOURNEY TO BETTER HEALTH BEGINS WITH FOOD IN THE MEDITERRANEAN REGION, PEOPLE LIVE LONGER

 • Food Sustainability Index: France, Italy and Spain are countries with the longest life expectancy (on average, 83 years)

• Thanks to the Mediterranean diet, people can live on average up to 4.5 years longer

• The 'nutritional transition' we are experiencing risks to increase the number of overweight and obese people: today 1 out of 3 Italian children between 5-19 years are overweight

• With the Mediterranean diet, we can prevent and fight diabetes, several types of cancer and cardio-vascular diseases

• BCFN's Double Food and Environment Pyramid can help adopt sustainable food models  




In the Mediterranean Region, people live longer (and healthier). Is it a common stereotype or is it true? According to a recent UK study monitoring the health of 5 thousand people for a period of 10 years, the Mediterranean diet could slow down DNA aging1. Furthermore, many researches claim that adopting this diet has helped people who live in Mediterranean countries lead a longer and healthier life (it is estimated that adopting this diet could add 4.5 years2 to life expectancy). Only Japan (with 84 years, on average) ranks higher than France (83), Italy (83) and Spain (83) among the countries with the 'highest life expectancy'. Japan (74.9 years) - together with South Korea (73.2) – are best practices while Israel (72.8), Italy (72.8) and France (72.6) still have a long way to move forward on 'healthy life expectancy', that is a life without disabilities linked, for instance, to coronary disease3 . However, in the Mediterranean Basin, just like in other regions of the world, we are witnessing a concrete 'food habits transition' that goes from a traditional diet featuring fruits and vegetables, whole grains, pulses and extra virgin olive oil, to one rich in animal protein, sugary and highly processed foods, salt, fats and low-fiber foods. The main consequence of this transition is the increase in the proportion of overweight or obese people, a key risk factor for health issues like diabetes, cardio-vascular diseases and cancer. Some examples? Over 60% of the population is overweight in Greece, while Spain and Israel record a high proportion of overweight people among both adults and children (34.1% and 35%, respectively, in the 5-19 year old group). The situation does not appear to be better in Italy, with 36.8% of overweight kids between 5 and 19 years of age. As the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition (BCFN) Foundation explained, after collecting data for World Health Day on 7 April, the situation risks moving us away from the Sustainable Development Goals, set by the UN Agenda 2030. 

The world is facing a serious nutritional emergency, but the sustainable development goals (especially those pledging to “End hunger” and “Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages”) give us an unprecedented opportunity to change things”, explained Gabriele Riccardi, Professor of Endocrinology and Metabolic Disease at the “Federico II” University in Naples and Member of the BCFN Advisory Board. "Today, for every malnourished person in the world, there are two overweight or obese people. We are talking about people who are the most likely to be ill. Food models could in fact influence human health: diabetes (there is a new case every 5 seconds) heart disease (which remains the first cause of death, globally, with 20 million deaths in 2015) and chronic disease, including tumors (responsible for 60% of global deaths), to name but a few. However, if we were to begin at the table, adopting sustainable diets, like the Mediterranean diet - which is mainly based on vegetables and uses relatively little animal foods - we could take a significant step in the fight against these illnesses, as well as making a small contribution to the fight against malnutrition in Developing Countries: better food, food for everyone". 

OBESITY: OBESITY: A NUTRITION PARADOX, BUT ALSO A DANGEROUS RISK FACTOR FOR OUR LIFE

The fact that obesity is a killer is widely recognized by the entire scientific community. Along with obesity come diseases that can compromise our lives. For example, diabetes among over 18s has increased globally from 4.7% of all cases in 1980 to 8.5% in 2014. Diabetes remains one of the main causes of blindness, renal failure; heart attacks, stroke and lower limb amputations, and it caused 1.6 million deaths in 2015 alone. A healthy diet, regular physical activity, maintaining a normal body weight and giving up smoking are the best ways to prevent or delay the occurrence of type 24 diabetes. Cancer, one of the main causes of death in the world with 14 million new cases in 2012, lists among its 5 main causes behavioral and diet risks (the key ones are high body mass index, low consumption of fruits and vegetables, lack of physical exercise, tobacco and alcohol consumption)5. Similarly, cardio-vascular diseases, the main cause of death globally (it is estimated that 17.7 million people died as a consequence of cardio-vascular diseases in 2015, accounting for 31% of all deaths in the world), can be prevented by avoiding behavioral risk factors such as tobacco, unhealthy diets and obesity, physical inactivity and alcohol, using strategies that can work at the population level 6.

FSI, SAUDI ARABIA, NIGERIA AND INDIA WILL NEED TO FACE THE MAIN FOOD CHALLENGES OF OUR PLANET

The fight for our health starts at our tables and with our food models. When we talk about nutritional challenges, what countries need the most effort? Saudi Arabia faces a high prevalence of overweight citizens, at 69.7% of the population; Nigeria, has extremely low life expectancy (53 years) and healthy life expectancy (nearly 48 years); and India has very high incidence of malnutrition and undernourishment (29.4% of children under 5 years of age are underweight).

Conversely, among the countries that do best we find Japan, with the highest life expectancy (84 years) and the third lowest rate of overweight adults (27.2%); South Korea, one of the countries with the lowest incidence of lack of micro-nutrients (calculated as lack of vitamin A and iodine), and Hungary, where over 85% of the population performs the recommended level of weekly physical exercise.

ITALY: EXCESS WEIGHT AND OBESITY ALERT FOR UNDER 19 (OVER 1 IN 3 ARE OVERWEIGHT) 

What about Italy? Even though it is one of the best-known countries for its Mediterranean diet, our country records some of the lowest 'food model values' scores in the FSI. Sugar in our diet is 7.6% of the total daily calorie intake, and with our daily consumption of 4.4g, we take almost twice the maximum recommended amount of sodium, which is 2.4g/day. Italy is also one of the countries with the lowest amount of time dedicated to physical exercise (only 36% of the population reaches the recommended levels of physical activity), among both children and adults. Over 36.8% of children and teenagers between 5 and 19 years of age is overweight, while the proportion of overweight adults exceeds 58% of the total. This situation is at least partly due to the absence of any food education in the national curriculum for primary and secondary schools. The good news, however, is that the Italian government is taking action, with programs like "Getting healthier: making healthy choices easier", a Ministry of Health program promoting the consumption of fruits and vegetables, reduced use of salt, sugar and fats in our foods, and lower alcohol levels.

THE DOUBLE FOOD AND ENVIRONMENT PYRAMID: AN EDUCATIONAL TOOL FOR ALL

Our food choices have an impact on our health, but they also impact the environment, since 24%7 of global greenhouse gas emissions are caused by food production (more than the manufacturing and transport industries). To increase awareness of the Mediterranean diet, a food regime that is good for our health and our Planet, BCFN is proposing the 'Double Food and Environment Pyramid'. In this graphic model, alongside the standard food pyramid (whose principles are the same as the Mediterranean diet) is a new “environmental” (upside down) pyramid, where food is classified according to its Ecological Footprint, that is, the potential impact of their production on the environment. Today, The Double Food Environmental Pyramid has become a useful tool to communicate about sustainable diets, as it remind us of the importance of our food choices, by showing us how foods with the lowest environmental impact are also the foods that nutritionists recommend we should eat more, while those with the highest environmental footprint are those that we should consume in moderation. 

     1 Http://www.ansa.it/healthandandwellness_channel/news/medicine/2018/03/28/mediterranean-diet-can-slowdown-dna-aging_95c0e171-a1cd-4adc-a92d-44c1f7cdcde9.html 

     2 Cros-Bou, M., Fung, T.M., Prescott, J., Julin, B., Du, Mengmeng, Sun, Q., Rexrode, K.M., Hu, F.B., De Vivo, I. Mediterranean diet and telomere length in Nurses’ Health Study: population based cohort study, BMJ 349: g6674, 2014.

     3 The Food Sustainability Index is developed by BCFN in partnership with the Economist Intelligence Unit and it analyzes the sustainability of the food system in 34 countries, which make up 87% of the global GDP and 2/3 of the world's population

     4 http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs312/en/ 

     5 http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs317/en/

     6 http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs317/en/

     7 BCFN calculations based Tukker A., B. Jansen, “Environmental Impacts of Products”, Journal of Industrial Ecology, 10, 3, 2006.

----------------------------------

BCFN PRESS OFFICE c/o INC ISTITUTO NAZIONALE PER LA COMUNICAZIONE

Simone Silvi - Senior Account Media Relations - s.silvi@inc-comunicazione.it - +39 335.10.97.279

Mariagrazia Martorana - Media Relations Consultant - m.martorana@inc-comunicazione.it - +39 333.57.61.268


PRESS OFFICE CONTACTS

Valentina Gasbarri, Communication and External Relations Manager, valentina.gasbarri@barillacfn.com , +39 338 7882700


This website uses profiling cookies, including third-party ones, to send you advertising and offer you services which reflect the preferences you have shown during browsing. If you continue to browse the website by accessing any area or selecting any element of it (such as an image or a link), you consent to use of cookies.
Click on the following link to view our extended cookie policy, which provides a description of the categories present and the links with the personal data policies of the third-party processors. You can also decide which cookies to authorise or whether to deny consent for all or only certain cookies.   Continues