I’ve been taking a closer look at the Mediterranean Diet in order to better understand the relationship to Dementia. There is a complex theoretical underpinning behind the construct of the Mediterranean Diet.
One aspect to understanding the Mediterranean Diet is a knowledge of dietary components. This was originally set out in terms of a Mediterranean food pyramid. The pyramid illustrates foods that should be consumed more frequently at the bottom of the pyramid whilst less frequently consumed foods are placed at the top of the pyramid.
More recently, INRAN (the Italian National Institute for Research on Food and Nutrion) has developed a modern version of the Mediterranean Diet. This is adapted to the Italian ecosystem and adds lifestyle elements.
This development is well explained in this paper by Vitiello and colleagues. The new pyramid adds conviviality – enjoying food as part of a social experience. Daily physical activity is included as an adjunct. There is also a reference to sustainability by preferentially utilising locally sourced products.
This answers the question of whether the Mediterranean Diet should be considered to be a cultural practice as well as a reductionist approach to simply identifying foods that are consumed. This helps the public to understand how they can adopt the diet.
From the perspective of science on the other hand, we need to be clear on exactly what the Mediterranean Diet means in terms of the research findings. To understand that concept we need to take a closer look at the research tools that have been used to investigate the Mediterranean Diet.
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