As we all know, in the Mediterranean countries profound changes in diet have been taking place in the latest decades, mainly due to cultural and socio-economic modifications in lifestyle. And those changes are leading to the erosion of the Mediterranean food cultures.
But what are nowadays the main barriers and the main drivers to the Mediterranean diet adherence?
In the framework of the activities planned for the Task 1.2 in SWITCHtoHEALTHY project, the task leader Bursa Uludag University investigated the topic by administering questionnaires to more than one thousand participants from Italy, Spain, Turkey, Lebanon and Egypt. Eleven barriers and sixteen drivers were rated on a 5-point likert scale from 1 (not at all true for me) to 5 (very true for me).
Looking at the general survey responses of the participants from across the countries, the main drivers to Mediterranean diet adherence identified in this population were:
- the Mediterranean diet includes healthier and more nutritious foods;
- it contains healthier fats;
- it encourages higher fruit-vegetable consumption and lower red meat consumption;
- it includes less processed foods;
- high consumption of homemade foods.
Those are the factors that bring people closer to the Mediterranean diet.
On the contrary, the most frequently reported barriers to adherence to the Mediterranean diet were:
- the Mediterranean diet includes high-priced foods;
- there are limited options in restaurants and markets;
- it is difficult and time consuming to prepare meals suitable for the Mediterranean diet;
- Mediterranean diet is not suitable for vegans and diet contains allergenic foods.
However, it should be noted that a very few percentage of this population rated the abovementioned barriers with a high score. In fact, the main drivers described in the survey obtained a score around 4 points, whereas the main barriers scored around 2 points, on a 5-point scale.
In general, according to the survey, the main factor that encourages people to follow the Mediterranean diet is that the diet consists of healthy and nutritious foods. On the other hand, the main deterrents are the high prices of the products of Mediterranean diet and the perception that there are limited options in markets or restaurants.
However, the drivers seem to have overall a higher weight than the barriers towards adherence to Mediterran diet in the population examined.
Although people know the beneficial aspects of the Mediterranean diet, the most important obstacle is believed to be the economic dimension of the diet itself.