October, 18, 2019
On the occasion of World Food Day, on 16th October 2019, the Embassy of Italy in Colombo, in partnership with the Ministry of Tourism and the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, has organized a Conference on the Mediterranean diet and on Italian Food. The theme of the event is aligned to that of World Food Day 2019 which is ‘healthy and sustainable diets’.
With the participation of esteemed Italian celebrity Chef Rubio, the benefits of the Mediterranean diet will be examined with an eminent panel of local experts (Chefs Guild President Gerard Mendis; Chef Nishantha Kulatunga, Senior Lecturer- Culinary at SLITHM; and Dr. Renuka Jayatissa, from the Ministry of Health), and our guest moderator and gourmand, Mr. Kumar Mirchandani.
The Mediterranean diet is considered to be one of the most beneficial for well-being, health and longevity, as well as being one of the most in line with the principles of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable development (since it promotes the use of local ingredients, low use of animal proteins and high use of vegetables). Its principles could be applied in many countries.
For the above reasons the Mediterranean Diet has been included among the intangible cultural heritages of humanity by UNESCO in 2010.
The event also witnessed the World Premiere screening of the ‘Recipes 4 Change’ video - a project funded by IFAD, the U.N. Bank in charge of the promotion of rural Development. The video has been filmed by Chef Rubio in Anuradhapura, where he visited a Sri Lankan family and cooked along with them while conveying information on nutritional and sustainability aspects.
The aim of the Embassy of Italy in Colombo is to draw attention to the advantages of this kind of diet which was “discovered” in the “70s by an American scientist, Ancel Keys, who noticed a very low incidence of coronary disease among the inhabitants of some Italian and Greek towns and put forward the hypothesis that this was due to the type of diet that is representative of this geographical area. Following this observation, the famous research "Seven Countries Study" began, based on the comparison of dietary regimes of 12,000 people, aged between 40 and 59, in seven countries (Finland, Japan, Greece, Italy, Holland, United States and Yugoslavia). The survey results left no doubt: mortality due to ischemic heart disease (heart attack) is much lower among Mediterranean populations than other countries.
Research has since shown that the traditional Mediterranean diet has proved to be a fundamental factor in lowering the risk of non-communicable diseases as part of a healthy lifestyle.
Adherence to a Mediterranean diet model is associated with a significant improvement in health, as demonstrated in the study (F. Sofi et al. Meta-analysis, BMJ September 2008), conducted on approximately 1,500,000 people, which has shown a reduction of 13% in both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, 6% in cancer mortality, 9% in cardiovascular diseases and again 9% in regards to total mortality.
According to many, the Mediterranean diet is one of the explanations for Italian longevity.
Commenting on the occasion, Her Excellency Rita Giuliana Mannella - Ambassador of Italy to Sri Lanka and Maldives - said, “The Embassy of Italy is very much engaged in promoting awareness about the importance of the United Nations Organizations based in Rome. Rome is currently the 3rd most important hub of the United Nations - after New York and Geneva - and most probably the one with the noblest of mandates: to promote food for all and achieve the eradication of hunger. We are very happy to have cosponsored this project with IFAD in this Country because we take very seriously our role as Host Country for these very dynamic Organizations devoted to the wellbeing of mankind.”
“Moreover, Italy is an advocate of the Mediterranean Diet – since it is healthy and sustainable for the planet - and the conversations had on its benefits held at the event were extremely interesting. Italy is globally the most sustainable country in the agriculture industry. We are also the first country in the world for DOP (Protected Designation of Origin – EU Geographical Indication) and IGP (Protected Geographical Indication) products, certifications that are aimed at protecting traditional products – something that should also be introduced in Sri Lanka to protect your excellences, such as Ceylon Tea, Cinnamon and other spices. Our attention to sustainability and nutrition have also seen Italians as founders of a number of pro-sustainability movements, such as Slow Food, Km 0 and Zero Waste, grassroots movements in favour of our environment and the preservation of our heritage. The Conference was the occasion to provide food for thought (excuse the pun).” continued Ambassador Mannella. To conclude she added “Our engagement starts from the assumption that we don’t have a ‘PLANET B’.”
On a lighter note, Ambassador Mannella “hopes that on this occasion we will have explained the principles at the basis of Italian food, namely the use of high quality ingredients. Italian cuisine is made to be with friends, to conclude good deals over (because a good glass of wine always helps), and we Italians give great importance to hospitality. Good Italian restaurants are characterized by elegant equipment, linen tablecloths with beautiful embroidery, refined porcelain and crystals, and by the key ingredients that make for flavoursome and nutritious dishes.”
Gabriele Rubini aka Chef Rubio is a very talented and eclectic Chef. He graduated in 2010 at ALMA, the world’s leading international educational and training centre for Italian Cuisine. He is considered one of the champions of Italian Food and an expert on Mediterranean Diet. He has written two books, one on the Mediterranean Diet and one titled “Mi sono mangiato il mondo” (I ate the world) in which he documents his travels as a gastronomic nomad. He has become a true media phenomenon and icon thanks to a number of TV programmes with a specific dedication to street-food. His latest program, ‘la ricerca del gusto perduto” (the search for the lost flavour), details his travels in Asia, exploring the customs, recipes and traditions on his flavour journey.
Photo Caption: Panel discussion consisting of [from left to right:] Chef Gerard Mendis – President of Chef’s Guild, Mr. Kumar Mirchandani, Dr. Renuka Jayatissa - Ministry of Health, Chef Nishantha Kulatunga - Senior Lecturer, Culinary at SLITHM and esteemed Italian celebrity Chef Rubio