• Cecilia Franco

Which diet has the lowest water footprint in Mediterranean Countries?

The Mediterranean diet has its origin in the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea or that have been influenced by it, as is the case of Portugal.


The main characteristics of this diet include a proportionally high consumption of olive oil as a source of fat; legumes, unrefined cereals, fruits and vegetables, moderate consumption of dairy products and wine and moderate to high consumption of fish compared to meat.


UNESCO recognised in 2010 the Mediterranean diet as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, which aims to ensure better protection of this cultural knowledge and practice, and awareness of its significance and importance for health.


The promotion of the Mediterranean diet as a healthy food model, sustainable and protective of biodiversity, should be focused on a local perspective, both in terms of production and consumption (short distribution chains), encouraging a diversified food supply through the revitalisation of local products, focusing on promoting the consumption and marketing of these products.


If a diet is healthy for the body, it should also be healthy for the environment. The Mediterranean diet, typical of countries with a Mediterranean climate, favours seasonal and local foods, and for this reason can be considered sustainable.


However, it is important to understand whether the diet we commonly consider healthy - the Mediterranean Diet - is also a sustainable diet, in terms of the use of water resources.


The Mediterranean region is increasingly water scarce, and food production is the biggest driver of water use. For this reason, it is important to find food production solutions that aim at the circular economy of this fundamental and scarce resource.


In a study published in the scientific journal Resources, Conservation and Recycling, researchers pose the question: which diet would have the smallest water footprint in Mediterranean countries - the Mediterranean diet or the EAT-Lancet, a scientifically optimised diet from both a nutritional and environmental point of view.


The study considered different food consumption requirements according to gender and six age groups, in nine countries - Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco - representing 88% of the population of all Mediterranean rim countries.


It was concluded that adherence to the EAT-Lancet diet consistently requires fewer water resources than the Mediterranean diet in all nations studied.


Thus, it is suggested that implementing dietary changes towards the adoption of the EAT-Lancet diet would be an important part of the solution to achieve sustainable use of water resources in Mediterranean countries.