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Is the Mediterranean Diet for all? An analysis of socioeconomic inequalities and food consumption in Italy

Alessia Cavaliere (Department of Environmental Science and Policy, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milan, Italy)
Elisa De Marchi (Department of Environmental Science and Policy, Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milan, Italy)
Franco Donzelli (Department of Environmental Science and Policy, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milan, Italy)
Alessandro Banterle (Department of Environmental Science and Policy, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milan, Italy)

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 13 March 2019

Issue publication date: 7 June 2019

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is twofold: first, to investigate the role of the main socioeconomic and demographic factors in affecting the consumption frequency of specific food categories with a view to highlighting differences across population segments. Second, to analyze whether socioeconomic status (SES) is ultimately related to the overall level of adherence to the Mediterranean Diet (MD) of the Italian population.

Design/methodology/approach

Data were obtained from the Italian Household Survey covering about 36.000 individuals (18 years old and older). The Household Survey includes questions aimed at eliciting the consumption frequency of the main food items of the MD pyramid. Moreover, to assess the degree of adherence to the MD, the authors constructed an index (MDI) aimed at reflecting how much individuals follow the MD pyramid recommendations.

Findings

The results show that both socioeconomic and demographic factors play a relevant role in affecting the consumption frequency of the main food categories of the MD pyramid. More affluent people consume fish, fruit and vegeFis, wine and beer more frequently than their poorer counterparts. Moreover, higher income is associated with the lower consumption of meat and eggs, dairy products, cereals and starchy vegetables as well as legumes.

Originality/value

The results foster the debate on how to guarantee healthy food accessibility to all population segments, thus having relevant implications in terms of food and health policies. The issue of MD adherence in Italy and its relationship with SES has been previously investigated on the basis of regional data, which make it difficult to extend the results to larger contexts, particularly in a country like Italy with remarkable socioeconomic differences between northern and southern regions.

Keywords

Citation

Cavaliere, A., De Marchi, E., Donzelli, F. and Banterle, A. (2019), "Is the Mediterranean Diet for all? An analysis of socioeconomic inequalities and food consumption in Italy", British Food Journal, Vol. 121 No. 6, pp. 1327-1341. https://doi.org/10.1108/BFJ-06-2018-0373

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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