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The Mediterranean diet as a sustainable diet case study



In 2009, the international conference “The Mediterranean diet as a sustainable diet model" was organized in Parma, Italy, by the International Interuniversity Studies Centre on Mediterranean Food Cultures (CIISCAM), with the technical collaboration of FAO, the Italian National Institute of Food and Nutrition (INRAN), the Forum on Mediterranean Food Cultures, and the CIHEAM of Bari. 


As a follow up to it, in 2011 the Mediterranean diet became for  FAO and CIHEAM-Bari as a joint case study for characterization and assessment of the sustainability of food consumption patterns and diets in the Mediterranean region. Through a series of international workshops, report and scientific publications, a methodological MED Diet 4.0 approach was also developed towards the assessment of the sustainability of the Mediterranean diet.


The Mediterranean diet as a sustainable lever linking, within the 2030 Agenda, food consumption to production in the Mediterranean, towards more sustainable food systems in the region.

Within the international debate on a shift towards more sustainable food systems and diets, interest in the Mediterranean diet as a model of a sustainable diet has increased. The notion of the Mediterranean diet has undergone a progressive evolution over the past 50 years – from that of a healthy dietary pattern for the heart to a model of a sustainable diet. The Mediterranean diet is a significant part of Mediterranean food systems, from consumption to production, and not just a diet, but more as a lifestyle, an expression of the diversity of Mediterranean food systems and cultures and their different culinary systems. Despite the fact that the Mediterranean diet has been acknowledged as a healthy diet, it is paradoxically becoming less the diet of choice in most Mediterranean countries. Southern and eastern Mediterranean countries are passing through the “nutritional transition” in which problems of under-nutrition coexist with overweight, obesity and food-related chronic diseases. The erosion of the Mediterranean diet heritage is alarming as it has undesirable impacts not only on health, but also on the social, cultural, economic and environmental trends in the Mediterranean region. 



 Dernini, S., EM Berry EM., Serra-Majem L., La Vecchia C., Capone R., Medina FX., J Aranceta-Bartrina J., Belahsen R., Burlingame B.,  Calabrese G., Corella1 D., Donini LM., Lairon D., Meybeck M., AG Pekcan AG., Piscopo S., Yngve A., and Trichopoulou, A. (2016)  Med Diet 4.0: the Mediterranean diet with four sustainable benefits”Public Health Nutr. Doi: 10.1017/S1368980016003177.

Hachem F., Capone R., Yannakoulia M., Dernini S., Hwalla N. (2016). The Mediterranean diet: A sustainable consumption pattern. In, Mediterra 2016. FAO/CIHEAM–SciencesPo Les Presses, Paris/Rome; 243-261.

 Dernini S. and Berry EM. (2016). Historical and Behavioral Perspectives of the Mediterranean Diet. In, Mediterranean Diet - Dietary Guidelines and Impact on Health and Disease. Romagnolo DF, Selmin OI. (Eds.). New York: Humana Press, Springer;  29-41.


Donini, L. M., Dernini, S., Lairon, D., Serra-Majem, L., Amiot, M. J., del Balzo, V., Polito, A., et al. (2016). A consensus proposal for nutritional indicators to assess the sustainability of a healthy diet: the Mediterranean diet as a case study. Frontiers in Nutrition, 3.


Dernini s. Berry E. (2015). Mediterranean diet: from a healthy diet to a sustainable dietary pattern. Front. Nutr. 2:15. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2015.00015.     

ñ   Berry EM,. Dernini S., Burlingame B., Meybeck A., Conforti P. (2015). Food security and sustainability: can one exist without the other? Public Health Nutrition DOI: 10.1017/S136898001500021X.

Dernini S., Meybeck A., Burlingame B., Gitz V., Lacirignola C., Debs P., Capone R., El Bilali H. (2013) “Towards a shared methodological approach to assess the sustainability of the Mediterranean diets and food consumption patterns”. New Medit; 3: 28-36.

Dernini S., Meybeck A., Burlingame B., Gitz V., Lacirignola C., Capone R., El Bilali H., Debs P., Belsanti V. (2012). “Towards the development of guidelines for improving the sustainability of diets and food consumption patterns: the Mediterranean diet as a pilot study”. A FAO/CIHEAM discussion paper. FAO, Rome.


Burlingame B. and Dernini S. (2011). “Sustainable diets: the Mediterranean diet as an example”. Public Health Nutrition: 14(12A), 2285–2287.


Dernini S., Berry E., Bach-Faig A., Belahsen R., Donini LM., Lairon D., Serra-Majem L., Cannella C. (2012) “A dietary model constructed by scientists: The Mediterranean diet.In, Mediterra 2012. CIHEAM–SciencesPo Les Presses, Paris; 71-88.

Bach-Faig A., Elliot M Berry E., Lairon D., Reguant J., Trichopoulou A.,Dernini S., Medina X, Battino M., Belahsen R., MirandaG., and Serra-Majem L. (2011) “ Mediterranean diet pyramid today. Science and cultural updates”. Public Health Nutrition: 14(12A), 2274–2284