International Conference and Exhibition

Traditional Mediterranean Diet:
Past, Present and Future

21-23 April 2004, Athens, Greece

Under the auspices of the:

- Greek National Tourism Organization

- National Agricultural Research Foundation

- Central Union of Vine and Wine Producing Cooperative
Organizations of Greece

With the support of the:

-The Ministry of Education of Greece

- International Olive Oil Council

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MEDIET 2004 Outline


More than 220 participants coming from the field of food and nutrition as well as the food industry and the media, attended the 1st International Conference on Mediterranean Diet that was held between the 21st and the 23rd of April 2004, in Athens, Greece. 


The participants came not only from Europe but also from the ends of the earth, from Argentina, to Oman, to Malaysia and Australia, and from Canada to South Africa. All of them came for one basic reason: to participate in the experience of the Mediterranean lifestyle, the exact meaning of the ancient Greek word .


And this ancient Greek diet is truly the gift of the gods, as Professor Dimitrios Trihopoulos said in his introductory keynote speech.


Dr Connie Lambrou-Phillipson pointed out that we are not what we eat, but very much what our ancestors ate. It is their foods and eating habits that have shaped our genetic code, and if we stray away from these, we do so only at our peril.


John Phillipson, described the beginnings of the Greek Mediterranean Diet going back some fifty thousand years. But he also pointed out our debt to the ancient Greek physicians, who made food their remedy.


Dr Anaya Sarpaki, opened a window into past plant production and consumption in the magic world of Bronze Age Akrotiri, in Thera, and the wealth of information on the subject that will be hopefully coming out of the continuing excavations, for years to come.


Dr Panagiotis Theodorakopoulos gave a detailed outline of the nutritional habits of prehistoric Cyprus, from the Neolithic to the Chalcolithic period, showing a continuation of dietary habits with little change. Sensible ancestors! Why change a good thing, if it can’t get any better.


A historical overview of almonds in the Eastern Mediterranean was provided by Dr Karen Lapsley and Professor Vardalas.


Professor Arshad Fatimah, analyzed the foods of the three population groups of her country, and pointed out that increasing westernization in the diet of Malaysia has contributed to the problems of obesity and cardiovascular diseases.


Professor Malika Bouchenak investigated the role of the Mediterranean diet on the west Algerian population.


Dr Maria Petho, compared the Mediterranean and Hungarian diets on the basis of nutritional recommendations.


Professor Elliot Berry effectively pointed out the importance of exercise in our life and health, leaving us with the catchy motto, “Better fit and fat than lean and lazy", and the immortal tip to choose our parents carefully.


Dr Christodoulakis brought messages of concern for the widespread problem of childhood obesity in Greece, and Dr Alexandra Cichocka showed that athyromatous plaque starts at a very early age in Poland.


In Portugal, students in their desire to lose weight, are endangering their health and Dr Pedro Moreira devised a study of cognitive restraints.


If we are to make a difference in the health of people, we have to find ways to influence children to eat healthy diets. This was admirably done by Professor Fergus Lowe in Wales, and Dr Eliza Markidou in Cyprus, with children of various ages. While Dr Matina Chronopoulou uses the Mediterranean Diet to teach elderly patients the advantages of a healthy diet.


It is a very hopeful sign that a lot of research is being carried out on the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. The Medi-Rivage study in France led by Dr Denis Lairon, the Epic Elderly Study in Greece by Dr Christina Bamia, and the SUN study in Spain by Professor Miguel Martinez-Gonzalez in Spain, showed how a Mediterranean type of diet can have beneficial results on cardiovascular disease.


One of the beneficial factors is wine and the keynoye lecture of the fourth session was delivered by Prof. Giovanni de Gaetano, on the current research of wine in the context of the Mediterranean Diet for the prevention of the cardiovascular problems. Dr George Kotseridis showed that some Greek varieties of grapes contain a lot more protective agents than normal. Professor Edith Diaz showed that Argentinean wines have also remarkable antioxidant properties. But wine is gaining ground as a staple even in northern countries like Germany, as Ms Ursula Fradera pointed out.


Another great beneficial factor is olive oil, and this has been reconfirmed by the studies of Ms Photini Bazotti and Mr Efstathios Anastassopoulos.


Other presentations discussed the exciting health properties of various traditional Mediterranean products, like cheese by Prof. Theofilos Massouras, honey by Professor Ioanna Chinou, eggs by Professor Niva Schapira, lemon by Dr Iman Hakim, and wild greens by Dr Rosario Tumino and traditional foods by Ms Efi Vasilopoulou. All got us think how this data can be used constructively in the future.


A different kind of research is conducted on the benefits of Mediterranean diet as a whole, and its role in cardiovascular disease by Professors Antonis Kafatos in Crete, and Christos Pitsavos and Antonis Zambelas in Athens, the effect of this diet on inflammation processes by Dr. Dimosthenis Panagiotakos, the role of fruit and vegetable consumption on the regulation of blood pressure by Professor Alvaro Alonso, and of purified sardine protein on serum lipoproteins by Professor Jacques Beleville.


Dr Evangelia Sossidou and Dr Spyros Ramadanis showed that meat safety is endangered by the way we treat, feed and transport our animals.


Professor Napoleon Maraveyias discussed the promotion of the products of the Mediterranean region. The Institute of Consumers showed the diminishing buying power of consumers and changing dietary practices. Mr Dimitris Michailides explained the need for a network of regional foods, and Dr Rafaella Spada reminded that the traditional Mediterranean diet is one diet but many cultures.


In a round table discussion, Drs Antonio Carrido Hernandez, Dimitris Economou and S. Panagou discussed the olive. And in another round table discussion, the important aspect of marketing was discussed by Dr Aris Kephaloyiannis of Gaea Products, Professor Elias Kastanas, Messers Vassilis Zambounis, Dinos Stergidis, Pavlos Passalides, Yolanda Totsiou and Christina Pandeleimoniti of Milelia Products.


But the traditional diet extends to the home kitchen and the restaurant, and is influenced by the role of the media. These were discussed by food writers and critics Elias Mamalakis, Diana Cochilas and Thalia Tsichlaki. Also taking part were Andreas Matthides catering specialist, Stelios Parliaros confectioner and Constantinos Lazarakis master of wine.


In an important round table discussion stressing that it is time for action, Professors Antonia Trihopoulou and Luis Serra Majem and Dr Sandro Dernini discussed how to characterize and promote the Mediterranean Diet. Dr Rosanna D’Amario of the European Commission gave hope that Europe may help finance relevant research projects.



Last update: 18 May 2004

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