a1 Human Nutrition Unit, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, 43201 Reus, Spain
a2 Community Nutrition Unit, Department of Public Health, Bilbao, Spain
a3 Nutrition Unit, Internal Medicine Service, Hospital Sant Joan de Reus, Reus, Spain
Objective The aims of this study were to assess the changes that have occurred in food patterns in Europe over the last 40 years based on food availability data and to compare the stability of the traditional Mediterranean diet in the south of Europe in this period.
Design An ecological study carried out on the basis of Food and Agriculture Organization food balance sheets for three geographical areas of Europe (Mediterranean, north and east) over two time periods: 1961–1963 and 1998–2000. The average availability of total energy, energy provided from macronutrients and food groups was calculated for each area and each period studied.
Results Over the last 40 years total energy availability and energy availability from lipids have increased considerably in the three European areas, while the percentage of energy from carbohydrates has fallen. The greatest changes have occurred in Mediterranean Europe, with an increase of 20.1% in total energy availability, an increase of 48.1% in energy availability from lipids and a fall of 20.5% from carbohydrates. Moreover, Mediterranean Europe showed a significant fall in the energy supplied by cereals (29.9%) and wine (55.2%), while the contribution of milk (77.8%) and dairy products (23.6%) increased.
Conclusions The results of this study suggest that European Mediterranean countries should take nutrition policy action to maintain their traditional healthy food pattern, with a cultural added value. This implies actions at all levels, including raising awareness of consumers, collaboration with the food sector and a call to set the agenda of the concerned politicians and stakeholders.
(Received November 29 2005)
(Accepted July 19 2006)