Estudios científicos

Underrated aspects of a true Mediterranean diet: understanding traditional features for worldwide application of a «Planeterranean» diet


Over the last decades, the Mediterranean diet gained enormous scientific, social, and commercial attention due to proven positive effects on health and undeniable taste that facilitated a widespread popularity. Researchers have investigated the role of Mediterranean-type dietary patterns on human health all around the world, reporting consistent findings concerning its benefits. However, what does truly define the Mediterranean diet? The myriad of dietary scores synthesizes the nutritional content of a Mediterranean-type diet, but a variety of aspects are generally unexplored when studying the adherence to this dietary pattern. Among dietary factors, the main characteristics of the Mediterranean diet, such as consumption of fruit and vegetables, olive oil, and cereals should be accompanied by other underrated features, such as the following: (i) specific reference to whole-grain consumption; (ii) considering the consumption of legumes, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices often untested when exploring the adherence to the Mediterranean diet; (iii) consumption of eggs and dairy products as common foods consumed in the Mediterranean region (irrespectively of the modern demonization of dietary fat intake). Another main feature of the Mediterranean diet includes (red) wine consumption, but more general patterns of alcohol intake are generally unmeasured, lacking specificity concerning the drinking occasion and intensity (i.e., alcohol drinking during meals). Among other underrated aspects, cooking methods are rather simple and yet extremely varied. Several underrated aspects are related to the quality of food consumed when the Mediterranean diet was first investigated: foods are locally produced, minimally processed, and preserved with more natural methods (i.e., fermentation), strongly connected with the territory with limited and controlled impact on the environment. Dietary habits are also associated with lifestyle behaviors, such as sleeping patterns, and social and cultural values, favoring commensality and frugality. In conclusion, it is rather reductive to consider the Mediterranean diet as just a pattern of food groups to be consumed decontextualized from the social and geographical background of Mediterranean culture. While the methodologies to study the Mediterranean diet have demonstrated to be useful up to date, a more holistic approach should be considered in future studies by considering the aforementioned underrated features and values to be potentially applied globally through the concept of a “Planeterranean” diet.

Comentarios divulgativos:

Esta revisión destaca aspectos de la dieta mediterránea que van más allá del consumo de un grupos característicos de alimentos, y que en ocasiones están subestimadas. Por ejemplo, el patrón del consumo o la forma de elaboración. En el caso del vino, éste es un alimento fermentado, cuya forma de consumo también es específica. Cantidades de consumo habituales, que son regulares y moderadas, y las ocasiones de consumo, durante las comidas y en compañía, en un contexto de socialización. Estos aspectos también parecen ser determinantes en su impacto en la salud. De modo que la dieta mediterránea debería entenderse como un estilo de vida global, no sólo como una lista de ingredientes o recomendaciones de consumo descontextualizadas de los hábitos asociados a ella.