The Mediterranean diet has a millennial history. Its origins are rooted in the dietary habits of Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire, in which populations based their diet mainly on bread, oil and wine, together with cheese and vegetables, little meat, fish and seafood. Over centuries this dietary model has been passed down from generation to generation, honouring its characteristics and peculiarities up until the present day.
In the fifties, the American nutritionist Ancel Keys was the first to coin the expression “Mediterranean diet” in its modern connotation, by defining it as a “set of skills, knowledge, practice and tradition that extends from the landscape to the table, in the range of the Mediterranean basin, from cultivation, harvesting, fishing, conservation, transformation, preparation and the particular way of consuming the food”.
With the arrival of the economical boom in the sixties and seventies, the Mediterranean diet was progressively abandoned, as it was considered a poor and less attractive diet in comparison to other dietary models. However, a growing awareness in Mediterranean countries has developed in recent years, acknowledging the important value of this lifestyle. This awareness, together with the desire to safeguard and promote this rich nutritional and cultural knowledge, led Spain, Greece, Morocco, and Italy to request the inscription of the diet in the List of elements considered an Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
The first candidacy officially presented in 2008 was rejected due to its generic nature and incomplete coherency with the mandate of the Intangible Heritage Convention, with little demonstration of the anthropological values, and cultural and social functions of the Mediterranean diet. In 2009, Italy decided to present a new candidacy dossier together with Spain, Morocco and Greece, acquiring the coordination of the international work group. Subsequently, on November 16th 2010, during the fifth session of the Intergovernmental UNESCO Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity reunited in Nairobi, in Kenya, the Mediterranean diet was unanimously inscribed on the prestigious UNESCO list. Within the following year talks were already launched for the expansion of the recognition to three new countries (Croatia, Cyprus and Portugal) that took shape on December 4, 2013 during the Intergovernmental Committee in Baku.