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On the 16th of July, 2007, the Ministers of Agriculture of Spain, Greece, Italy and France announced to the Agriculture and Fisheries Council of the EU, their initiative to highlight the values of the Mediterranean Diet and thus, their intention to request the inclusion of the Mediterranean Diet on UNESCO's list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
In the meantime, the Mediterranean Diet through its multifunctional connection with sustainable agriculture, environment, public health and nutrition, culture and tradition, was an issue for discussion and consideration at various national, European and international fora.
In 2008, four countries, namely Greece, Italy, Morocco and Spain submitted the transnational nomination file to UNESCO.
The 5th Session of UNESCO's Intergovernmental Committee assessed the request and on November 16, 2010, decided to include the Mediterranean Diet in the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and declared Koroni (on behalf of Greece), Cilento (on behalf of Italy), Chefchaouen (on behalf of Morocco) and Soria (on behalf of Spain) as Emblematic Communities.
The intergovernmental meeting held in Agros, Cyprus, on 28-29 April, 2014, with the participation of Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain, adopted the proposal of the Ministry of Rural Development and Food of the Hellenic Republic to undertake the coordination of the Network. Greece has been assigned the coordinating role of the Network of the seven Member Countries subscribed to the Mediterranean Diet on UNESCO's representative list of Intangible Cultural Heritage, from 1 May 2014 to 30 April 2015. The coordination role is on a rotational basis among the seven countries with Italy following Greece.
The appoint of MAICh/CIHEAM from the Hellenic Ministry of Rural Development & Food as the coordinating point for Greece, is a significant achievement, since it is regarded as possessing the necessary scientific and research expertise which will enable the seven countries to undertake joint actions and initiatives, for both the preservation and the dissemination of the values of the Mediterranean Diet. During the meeting, representatives of MAICh/CIHEAM unveiled in detail the activities of the Institute and the proposal for the coordination of activities and specific actions aimed at maintaining the status of the Mediterranean Diet as Intangible Cultural Heritage.
It was further highlighted that many aspects of the Mediterranean lifestyle are based on this nutritional model with beneficial properties for health and welfare, framed by cultural elements which are enclosed in traditional methods and practices that need to be passed on from generation to generation.
To this effect, MAICh/CIHEAM has created the official website for the network, www.mediterradiet.org
The concept of the Mediterranean diet was originally conceived by Ancel Keys, in the Seven Countries Study [1-2]. However, the core foods of the diet of people living around the Mediterranean basin have been recognized since the BC era: bread, olive oil, and wine were staple foods in the Greek and Roman diets; bread was symbolic of agriculture and human civilization and olive trees were the identity of Mediterranean lands.
The Mediterranean diet has been linked to a number of health benefits, including reduced mortality risk and lower of cardiovascular disease. Definitions of the Mediterranean diet vary across some settings, and scores are increasingly being employed to define Mediterranean diet adherence in epidemiological studies. Some components of the Mediterranean diet overlap with other healthy dietary patterns, whereas other aspects are unique to the Mediterranean diet. In this forum article, we asked clinicians and researchers with an interest in the effect of diet on health to describe what constitutes a Mediterranean diet in different geographical settings, and how we can study the health benefits of this dietary pattern.
In 2012, CIHEAM celebrated its fiftieth anniversary with the 2012 edition of Mediterra which takes the mobilising potential of the Mediterranean Diet as a basis and proposes a multidimensional itinerary involving sociodemographics, health, ecology, enterprise, geo-economics and citizens´initiative.
CIHEAM is founded in 1962 under the auspices of the Council of Europe and the OECD, the International Centre for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies (CIHEAM) is an intergovernmental organisation comprising thirteen member countries from the Mediterranean Basin (Albania, Algeria, Egypt, France, Greece, Italy, Lebanon, Malta, Morocco, Portugal, Spain, Tunisia and Turkey).
CIHEAM is made up of four Mediterranean Agronomic Institutes (MAI) located in Bari (Italy), Chania (Greece), Montpellier (France) and Zaragoza (Spain) and a General Secretariat in Paris.
In pursuing its three main complementary missions (specialised post-graduate education, networked research and facilitation of the regional debate), CIHEAM has established itself as an authority in its fields of activity: Mediterranean agriculture, food and sustainable rural development.
On 5-7 September, 2014, the Ministry of Rural Development and Food of the Hellenic Republic and CIHEAM - MAI Chania participated as Coordinators, at the 2nd Mediterranean Diet Fair held in the town of Tavira, Portugal, one of the Emblematic Communities which inscribed Mediterranean Diet as Intangible Cultural Heritage (UNESCO’s Representative list).
European gastronomic heritage: cultural and educational aspects