Mediterraneans Face Obesity Despite Their Famous Diet

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Just when it seems like many Americans have begun to embrace the Mediterranean diet for its health benefits, people in the Mediterranean countries are abandoning the traditional way of eating in favor of the "American" diet. Italy, Spain and Greece are now experiencing the obesity epidemic first hand, with Italy having the highest percentage of obese people in Europe today. In Italy and Greece, people today eat roughly four times more meat than they did 40-50 years ago. As people have increased their income during this time period, they have added more meat to their diet, and moved away from the plant-based Mediterranean diet.

These countries have seen an increase in fast food availability and along with this are the marketing and promotion of junk food to their children. An estimated 36% of 12 to 16 year old Italian children are now considered overweight or obese. It seems that Italy’s young people favor fast foods, while ignoring the traditional diet. They are also spending more time in front of the television and are less physically active, like their American counterparts.

It’s really unfortunate that the people of the Mediterranean are abandoning a style of eating that has so much going for it. It’s a plan that has many health benefits, is easy to maintain, and does not skimp on taste or leave you feeling deprived. Highlights of this eating plan include:

* Generous amounts of fruits and vegetables to provide an abundance of vitamins and minerals not found in other types of food.
* High fiber from whole grains, vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts and seeds.
* Low sugar because fresh fruit is the basis for most desserts in this eating plan.
* Omega 3 fatty acids from salmon and sardines incorporated on a regular basis.
* Increased satiety from olive oil used in cooking and on foods.
* Reduced risk for pre-diabetes, diabetes or insulin resistance due to healthier food choices.
* Versatility for people with or without health issues.
* Plant based foods that provide a wide variety of antioxidants.
* Simple, whole foods rather than highly processed, sodium laden foods.
* Resveratrol and flavinoids from the regular use of wine, which helps increase good cholesterol and prevent blood clotting.

Over the years, the Mediterranean diet has been much studied. The diet, in part, accounts for the longevity and good health found in the people of generations past. Now, for the first time in decades, today’s children may very well have a shorter lifespan, and more chronic health problems than their parents or grandparents. This represents a massive shift in the overall health and longevity of people in just three generations. This trend is predicted in many countries worldwide where obesity rates are climbing at an alarming rate. So although Americans are still considered the fattest people on the planet, it looks like other countries are, sadly, catching up.

About the Author:

© 2011, Gretchen Scalpi, RD, CDE.

Gretchen Scalpi is a Registered Dietitian, author, consultant and health coach. Gretchen has worked one on one with hundreds of clients in her own private nutrition practice since 2002. If you would like to work with Gretchen as an online coach please visit or call 845-831-7258 to schedule your half hour complimentary wellness coaching session.

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