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2nd 'Food Values' Conference Held in Tuscany

Experts from a wide range of backgrounds met at Villa Pecori Giraldi in Borgo San Lorenzo to discuss the relevance of the Mediterranean diet and explore new approaches and proposals.

Francesco Visioli
Oct. 12, 2017
By Ylenia Granitto
Francesco Visioli

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The second International Conference on the Mediterranean Diet, ‘Inspiring a Renaissance of Food Values’ was held October 6 – 7 at Villa Pecori Giraldi, in Borgo San Lorenzo (Florence), under the aus­pices of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the University of Florence, and Villa Campestri Olive Oil Resort.

There is an urgent need to reap­praise our rela­tion­ship with food and its prepa­ra­tion.- Simon Poole

The two-day event fea­tured pre­sen­ta­tions from pol­i­cy­mak­ers, agron­o­mists, public health offi­cials, pro­fes­sors and culi­nary experts on the rel­e­vance of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil, and health­ier eating habits in the con­text of today’s indus­tri­al­ized fast-paced soci­ety, with a view to out­line new approaches and pro­pos­als to be pre­sented to world health min­is­ters and related orga­ni­za­tions.

The day after, fol­low­ing the prin­ci­ples of the con­ven­tion, the Oleoteca Villa Campestri and the National Carlo Collodi Foundation signed an agree­ment to pro­mote food edu­ca­tion and olive oil cul­ture for chil­dren.





“We brought together speak­ers and guests from a broad range of back­grounds to dis­cuss the value we place on our food, in the con­text of increas­ing recog­ni­tion of the impor­tance of tra­di­tions and food qual­ity to ensure health and sus­tain­abil­ity,” said the founder of the con­fer­ence Paolo Pasquali open­ing the con­gress.

Values inter­twined with health, cul­tural tra­di­tions, qual­ity, and sus­tain­abil­ity were under­lined by the pres­i­dent of the con­fer­ence, the chan­cel­lor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences of the Vatican City, Monsignor Marcelo Sànchez Sorondo.

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The dis­cus­sion started from ‘The Last Supper’ by Giotto, exam­ined by Donatella Lippi of the University of Florence. The art­work, which inspired many artists over the cen­turies, was the sub­ject of a study that inves­ti­gated the con­tent of the meals and the changes in kinds of food and size of por­tions over time, thus pro­vid­ing inter­est­ing clues to detect how foods were used in art and how this prac­tice may reflect, or inspire, real-life set­tings.

The adher­ence to cul­ture and tra­di­tions of the MedDiet was pre­sented by Antonia Trichopoulou of the Hellenic Health Foundation of Athens, who also focused on its sus­tain­abil­ity and the “respect for sea­son­al­ity; foods less demand­ing in pri­mary energy, and lim­ited envi­ron­men­tal impact, due to low con­sump­tion of animal prod­ucts and thus a small water foot­print and low green­house gas emis­sions.”

Antonia Trichopoulou

Thanks to the ben­e­fi­cial prop­er­ties of its com­po­nents, the MedDiet is one of the health­i­est dietary pat­terns. “The near total­ity of epi­demi­o­log­i­cal stud­ies and sev­eral human trials show that an ade­quate micronu­tri­ent, such as vit­a­mins, min­er­als, polyphe­nols, and essen­tial fatty acids intake is asso­ci­ated with pos­i­tive mod­u­la­tions of sur­ro­gate mark­ers of degen­er­a­tive dis­ease, notably cancer and car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease,” Francesco Visioli of the University of Padua observed.

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Francesco Sofi of the University of Florence empha­sized the role of plant-based diets as a useful instru­ment for pre­vent­ing dis­ease, rec­og­niz­ing the need for modern soci­eties to reaf­firm the link between nat­ural, sus­tain­able food and the health of indi­vid­u­als and com­mu­ni­ties. He called for a new approach whereby “food choices must be strongly sup­ported by clin­i­cal behav­ior change efforts, health sys­tems reforms, novel tech­nolo­gies, and robust policy strate­gies tar­get­ing eco­nomic incen­tives, schools and work­places, neigh­bor­hood envi­ron­ments, and the food system.”

Francesco Visioli

In the per­spec­tive of food mar­ket­ing, Pierre Chandon of the Insead Sorbonne University Behavioral Lab of Paris observed that today’s eating dis­or­ders and the obe­sity epi­demic are largely driven by the ever-increas­ing avail­abil­ity of large por­tions of food. He pro­posed the ‘less size — more plea­sure’ solu­tion which will pro­vide both for an improve­ment of the per­cep­tion of a rea­son­able por­tion and pack­age sizes and for a focus on the sen­sory enjoy­ment of eating rather than on sati­a­tion or value for money.

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“There is an urgent need to reap­praise our rela­tion­ship with food and its prepa­ra­tion” said the Cambridge-based author and one of the founders of ‘Food Values,’ Simon Poole, who called on pol­i­cy­mak­ers to take bold deci­sions to address the impend­ing increase in chronic dis­ease, “in order that the eco­nomic envi­ron­ment is more con­ducive to making healthy food choices, and that every child receives an ade­quate edu­ca­tion to learn to under­stand and value excel­lence in the prepa­ra­tion and enjoy­ment of good food.”

Councilor of Culture of Borgo San Lorenzo, Cristina Becchi

The fun­da­men­tal role of extra virgin olive oil as a staple of the Mediterranean diet was high­lighted by Jean-Xavier Guinard of the University of California at Davis. “The way olive oil clearly embraces tra­di­tion and yet is a focus of inno­va­tion in the cur­rent rein­ven­tion of food, diet, and lifestyle makes it the per­fect vehi­cle for study­ing food sci­ence, culi­nary arts and behav­ioral nutri­tion that sus­tain the Mediterranean diet and the food values asso­ci­ated with it,” he remarked.

Ancient grains as an exam­ple of a renais­sance of old values were dis­cussed by Stefano Benedettelli of the University of Florence. Several stud­ies have sug­gested that they could present a health­ier and a better nutri­tional pro­file than modern wheats by pro­vid­ing more vit­a­mins, min­er­als and nutraceu­ti­cal com­pounds. Moreover, they con­sti­tute a viable option, being envi­ron­men­tally sus­tain­able.

Montaña Cámara Hurtado of the University Complutense of Madrid pro­moted wild plant foods as an excel­lent source of bioac­tive com­pounds. “Their tra­di­tional con­sump­tion must be pre­served as a good alter­na­tive for the lim­ited vari­ety of veg­eta­bles cur­rently con­sumed, improv­ing the qual­ity and making pos­si­ble a diver­si­fi­ca­tion of modern diets,” she sug­gested.

Claudio Peri of the University of Milan pro­posed a way to ensure the suc­cess of local pro­duc­tion and the mar­ket­ing of excel­lent prod­ucts: The cre­ation of healthy ‘Communities of Practice’ of small com­pa­nies involved in the pro­duc­tion-mar­ket­ing chains. “They could ben­e­fit from many advan­tages, includ­ing an effec­tive con­trol of crit­i­cal points (feed­back), con­nec­tions that allow intro­duc­ing ele­ments of one prac­tice into another (bro­ker­ing), and shar­ing of arti­facts, doc­u­ments, terms, con­cepts, and other ‘bound­ary objects’ around which they can orga­nize their inter­con­nec­tions.”

“To truly pre­serve the MedDiet and expand its accep­tance, we have to focus on con­tin­u­ously rais­ing the qual­ity and vis­i­bil­ity of its plant-based core, from veg­eta­bles to grains and olive oil,” said Greg Drescher of The Culinary Institute of America. He sug­gested ele­vat­ing the status of the recipes and tech­niques that have his­tor­i­cally made the plant-for­ward fla­vors of the Mediterranean so appeal­ing.

“Chefs within and out­side of the Mediterranean have a spe­cial oppor­tu­nity to show­case in their restau­rants the tra­di­tional genius of every­day, tra­di­tional Mediterranean vil­lage cook­ing with plant pro­teins,” Drescher added. “Long live the chick­pea! And this is all about values – food values,” he said.

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  1. Thank you for that very useful overview of the con­fer­ence, which was help­ful in shar­ing key points people would want to learn about the Med diet!